In 2008, government, as part of protecting the country’s forest reserves, banned the exportation of round wood in the country. EPHRAIM NYONDO sought information from the Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka to find out how the ban is going.
How do you define round wood?
Round wood is defined as wood in its rough natural state as felled, or as otherwise harvested, with or without the bark, which can be round, split, roughly squared or in other shapes. This includes other forms of wood such as roots, stumps, branches etc. Common round wood commodities are logs, poles and fuel wood.
Now why, specifically, the ban?
It has been observed in Malawi that there are insufficient forests that can sustainably supply round wood from hardwood trees, for domestic, let alone export use. To protect the remaining indigenous hardwood forests therefore, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Mining in consultation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade issued a ban on exportation of hard wood in form of round wood or any other form, in 2008. This was done under the umbrella of the Control of Goods Act, Chapter 18.08 of the Laws of Malawi. The ban is aimed at restricting the harvesting and exportation of hardwood which is seriously threatening the survival of important protected tree species in the country and in surrounding countries.
The ban was able to control wanton cutting of precious and protected tree species in Malawi, until recently when international trade in round wood surfaced. The stimulus appears to be a lucrative market for round wood in offshore and other Far Eastern countries.
How are you implementing this ban?
On law Enforcement, the Department of Forestry has been collaborating with the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), the Malawi Army, the Malawi Police Service and other law enforcers to stop illegal possession and transportation of round wood through regular law enforcement patrols and at road blocks. Personnel at border posts have been instructed to detain and confiscate any round wood which is being exported without licence and permit from the Department of Forestry.
We have also made a cessation of issuing of Export Licences and Permits. Since the 2008 ban, the Department of Forestry no longer issues licences and permits for export of round wood. The only exception has been where the Department has been issued Court Orders.
We have also been engaging the public on this. To ensure that the general public and all law enforcement agencies are aware of the ban and other legal instruments on round wood, a series of press releases have been aired on the radio and placed in the popular newspapers. The MRA and Malawi Police Service have been officially informed about the 2008 ban and have been regularly reminded to support its implementation.
Q: Would you explain to some of the challenges you are meeting in the implementation of this ban?
Implementation of the ban has met many challenges, especially in recent months when the offshore market has surfaced.
Ambiguity of the ban, especially how to treat round wood that has been illegally imported from Zambia and officially auctioned by the Malawi and Zambia Governments in Mchinji and Kasungu.
Ambiguity on how to treat round wood that is in transit from Zambia which is accompanied by valid but not satisfied documents from the Zambian Government. The latter is associated with challenges to determine authenticity of documents.
We have a weak capacity at the Department of Forestry to deal with legal challenges—including Court Orders.
There is inadequate support from law enforcement agencies due to budgetary limitations and possibly corruption.
And lastly, suspected corruption among some members of staff, officers and other implementing agencies, for instance, MRA border officials and legal practitioners.
So how, as government, do you want the public to provide support in the implementation of the ban?
They should report cases of illegal possession, transportation and export of round wood. They should support law enforcement activities, for instance, through community policing groups and village natural resource committees. They should report reporting corruption by implementation agents. And lastly, they should be involved in public awareness activities.