THE Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has suspended the exportation of Mukula and Round Wood.

Lands minister Jean Kapata announced this at a media briefing yesterday saying the illegal harvesting and trade of Mukula had reached alarming rates.

She said her ministry had engaged provincial ministers to get a better understanding of where illegal harvesting of Mukula trees was taking place and it was discovered that some chiefs were also involved.

“The consultations with the provincial ministers highlighted a number of challenges that require strategic approaches to help curb the illegal activities. Some of the key challenges observed are: the forestry department which is the government department mandated to spearhead protection and management of forests is constrained in terms of staff, tools and equipment and cannot manage on its own to control the illegal activities; the communities living around the forests where these illegal activities are taking place are being used by the perpetrators of these illegal activities without economic benefit accruing to the rural community,” Kapata said.

“Round logs are being transported across the country, yet the forest regulations has provided that these may only be moved up to a radius of 100 km; export of logs has been allowed to some companies and/or individuals and this has distorted the market for processed timber thereby increasing illegal trade and export of timber; and some traditional authorities have in some cases joined in the harvesting and trade of the Mukula tree thereby causing weak control mechanisms at the sub-district and forest levels.”

Kapata said her ministry had therefore resolved to suspend the exportation of Mukula and Round Wood indefinitely.

“The Ministry of Lands and Natural resources will engage the public service management division to progressively increase the number of forestry officers, most especially forest range guards to enhance the monitoring of forestry operations in the country and the export of round wood or logs of any timber tree species, including that from the Mukula tree has been suspended forthwith. Timber export permits will only be issued for processed or sawn timber. Sawn timber is timber that has been sawn by a sawmill or pitsaw in accordance with the customer’s specifications. This is in accordance with statutory instrument no. 94 of 2015: the forests (export of timber) regulations,” she said.

“Any trucks that will be found carrying logs for export and beyond the 100 km radius within Zambia will be prosecuted following the provisions of the Laws of Zambia, and the Road Transport and Safety Agency have been requested to ensure that this directive is adhered to at all cost. No round logs will be allowed to be moved from any concession area beyond 100 km. Any such logs that will be found in transit shall be impounded and any public officer that shall be found to facilitate such movements shall be appropriately disciplined.”

Kapata appealed to stakeholders to be proactive in the fight against illegal harvesting of timber.

“I therefore wish to call for concerted effort from stakeholders to curb the illegal cutting and export of round wood. I further encourage partnerships with government, through the forestry department, to form community forest management groups that should get involved in sustainable forest management and apply for forest concession licences in order to give full benefit of the resources to our local people,” said Kapata.

“In order to enhance control at decentralized level, I have in accordance with the forests act delegated functions of control on the harvesting and trade to the provincial ministers to work with the provincial joint operations committee in curbing illegal activities.”