The government of Tanzania has formed a task force aimed at reinforcing the implementation of the Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and Other Forest Products, an official said.
The task force, formed in February, comprises forest experts from mainland Tanzania and the Zanzibar archipelago, Zanzibar’s Director for Planning, Policy and Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Livestock and Fisheries Sheha Hamdan said.
He made the remarks at a forum on global strategies to protect forests organised by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) in Dar es Salaam.
Signed on Sept. 9, 2015, during the World Forestry Congress held in Durban, South Africa, the declaration is a collective regional mechanism that brings together five member states — Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and Madagascar — to improve forest management and trade.
Hamdan told forest experts from 62 countries around the world that illegal timber trade is flourishing at an alarming pace across the African region.
“Strengthening security along borders and in the oceans is crucial towards curbing illegal transportation of timber from one country to another,” the official said.
“The war on illegal trade in timber should not be left to the government alone,” he said. “Everybody has a role to ensure that our forests are protected for the benefit of our future generations.”
Migule Pacheco, forest specialist for WWF Colombia, underlined the need for inter-regional cooperation and mechanisms to curb illegal timber trade for sustainable development.
Pacheco appealed for more community engagement in managing forest resources for better outcome.
Julie Thomson, head of TRAFFIC East Africa, said insufficient law enforcement, poor transparency in forest activities and improper monitoring of timber industry are among obstacles facing the fight against illegal trade in timber.
It is estimated that the world loses approximately 13 million hectares of forest a year, or the equivalent of 36 football fields per minute. Tanzania loses approximately 400,000 hectares of forest annually.