Mukula has potential to boost export earnings – PMRC

The Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC) says the Mukula tree has the potential to increase Zambia’s resource mobilisation efforts and contribute to the country’s earnings through export of finished timber products.

In a statement, PMRC executive director Bernadette Deka stated that the Mukula tree had the potential to increase Zambia’s resource mobilisation efforts and contribute to the country’s earnings through export of finished timber products and increased investments in the production sector if well-managed.

“Given the challenges that threaten the existence of Zambia’s forests and tree species, such as the Mukula, there is need to improve the capacity of local forestry departments, which are poorly staffed, leaving vast areas of forest in different parts of the country open to illegal activities, such as deforestation. There is urgent need to shift local mind-sets and attitudes towards the environment by encouraging the protection of tree species, such as the Mukula by members of local communities. The National Forestry Policy and the Forests Act, which contain provisions for Community Forest Management (CFM), Joint Forest Management (JFM) and Private Forest Management (PFM) to supplement the forestry department’s lack of capacity to manage Zambia’s protected forest estate, must be implemented for Zambia to realise its full potential and promote sustainable forest management practices,” Deka stated.

“This can be achieved through participation of communities, traditional authorities and NGOs in the management of forests to bolster capacity to manage, monitor and enforce the principles of sustainable forest management. Government needs to constantly assess and implement measures included in the Forests Act of 2015, including community, joint and private forest management to achieve diversification, wealth creation and attract investment in the forest/timber processing sectors.”

And she stated that diversifying the country’s economy and reducing the country’s over-dependence on the extractive industry required well thought-out policy interventions.

“Diversifying the economy and reducing over-dependence on the extractive industry by modernising the agriculture sector and prioritising value addition requires well thought-out policy interventions for monitoring and evaluation and constant planning processes. Zambia’s forests are endowed with some of the most valuable timber resources that include the Mukula tree, scientifically called ‘Pterocarpus erinaceus’, which takes about 80 to 90 years to fully mature. Dubbed as Zambia’s Forest Gold Resource, the Mukula tree has the potential to increase Zambia’s resource mobilisation efforts and contribute to the country’s earnings through export of finished timber products and increased investments in the sector,” Deka stated.

“A Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) study titled ‘Informality, global capital, rural development and the environment: Mukula (Rosewood) trade between China and Zambia’ published in March, 2018, examined the political economy of the international Mukula trade and the role of global capital, in particular that of Chinese origin in Zambia, and its impacts on rural livelihoods, the environment and resource governance. The study showed that rural villagers increasingly forged direct links with foreign investors and produced innovative business models that accelerate the rate of small-scale production and extraction of resources under limited government supervision. In 2017, the government banned the harvesting, transportation, trading and exportation of the Mukula tree in accordance with Statutory Instrument (SI) number 94 of 2015 and also mandated the Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation Limited (ZAFFICO) to auction confiscated Mukula.”

PMRC recommended that government protects the Zambian forests against depletion and take stock of the resource availability for better planning by conducting routine stock assessment of the timber resources.

Trade in Mukula trees increased last year, with suspicious transactions linked to its illegal exports amounting to over K4.4 million, according to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) 2017 Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing Trends Report.

This is despite the ban government put in place back in 2015 to prevent rampant theft of the natural resource.

In Eastern Province alone, hot pursuit of the Mukula and Mukwa trees have exacerbated tree-cutting to unprecedented levels in that part of the country.

         

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