Timber smuggling plagues Northern districts

The Resident Minister for North-West, Isata Abdulai Kamara and the Paramount Chiefs of Kambia and Port Loko Districts have unanimously and unequivocally called on the president through the office of the Minster of Agriculture and Forestry, Dennis K. Vandi to put a ban on the logging of timber in their area. These timber logs, they claim, are then secretly smuggled across the border to Senegal or brought to Freetown for overseas shipment. They say large acres of forest space are being cleared as a result of this environmentally hazardous practice. The administrative and traditional rulers of the border districts expressed fear at the extent of the problem and said that if immediate and urgent action is not taken to halt the indiscriminate cutting of trees for timber and charcoal burning, Port Loko and Kambia would soon become a savannah. “The license to timber associations should be revisited to save our forest,” stated Pa Alimamy Kamara, Chief of Bureh Chiefdom, Port Loko. He went on to say that the youths have abandoned agriculture to get quick cash with the timber loggers as they are paid on daily basis. “We have identified fertile sites for mass rice production, up to 200 acres. Our problem now is late arrival of seeds, fertilizers and machines to do large scale farming. We start plowing in March so that the tractors can move freely,” he furthered. In narrating the devious manner in which timber loggers are secretly transporting their product, Kamara said they disguise the logs in trucks as if they are carrying bags of gari. She said when they are intercepted, they produce logging licenses. “A resident tried to engage in reforestation and nursed 90,000, trees. However, they did not get the needed support so they could not achieve their goal,” she noted. The resident minister maintained, “Guineans come to our Saturday market (Luma) and buy our agricultural produce at a cheaper rate. This is mostly to the detriment of our local farmers”. She suggested, “We should build silos to store our harvested rice”. She also informed the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dennis K. Vandi, who was on a familiarization tour to the north east and west of the country of her 100 acres’ rice field in Kamasondo. “We have to concentrate on producing what we eat. Lungi, Port Loko District is fertile for vegetable production, yet people are coming from outside to sell vegetables to us,” observed the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, D.K. Vandi. He appealed to the people to boost rice production as it is our staple food. Also, he vowed to tackle the indiscriminate felling of trees and assured them of his ministry’s unfailing support to make us food self-sufficient by 2023. “During the rainy season, the trucks transporting timber break down on the roads, they block us from taking our produce to the market on time. Some of our crops are perishable and if they cannot reach their intended market quickly, it’s our loss,” pointed out Hawa Keita, head of the Falaba District Women Farmers. From the North-West to the North-East of the country, one complain that stood out among the rest from farmers was the alarming rate of deforestation taking place. The people are frustrated about the issue because their lives and livelihoods depend on the forest. With the depleting of the forest, comes the depletion of life saving resources like water as regent chief Shaku Jawara of Mongo Town, Falaba District stated, “Some of these trees, when you cut them down, the water in the area dries because their roots go down in the soil and draws water to the surface. That is why government should take serious steps to protect our forests, before it is too late.”

DT/10/3/20

By David Thoronka

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