Eastern African nations launch Steering Committee for Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and other Forest Products

By Michael Muratha 


Representatives from across Eastern Africa recently converged in Nairobi to discuss implementation of the Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and other Forest Products and formally launch its Steering Committee. The Zanzibar Declaration was signed in September 2015 during the XIV World Forestry Congress in South Africa and has been heralded as a huge step forward in regional efforts to address the rampant illegal timber trade in East Africa.

Member States currently include Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Madagascar, and mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar under the umbrella of the Southern African Development Community and the Eastern African Community. As well as launching the Steering Committee and reviewing progress with implementation of the Declaration, Member State forestry department representatives also discussed a range of shared issues relating to timber trade including the development of a mechanism to collaborate on implementation of trade governed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Other issues discussed include; how to deal with produce seized from illegal trade, groundwork for a block agreement between signatories of the Zanzibar Declaration and importing countries in Asia including the major economic impact for the region given the high levels of timber trade currently taking place with East Asia, in particular China.

Speaking during the meeting Chief Conservator of Forest Emilio Mugo highlighted the importance of the meeting as marking a significant step forward in efforts to ensure timber trade in Eastern Africa is managed in a way that brings equitable benefits to all.  He further added that everyone from the local communities on whose land the timber grows all the way to the end consumers in a distant part of the planet.

The signing of the Zanzibar Declaration by the Governments of Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Uganda, and Tanzania, represents a clear sign of commitment by Governments in the region to make an end to the illegal trade in timber and forest products, which is not only degrading the rich forests assets of the region but also represents an enormous loss in economic values and livelihood opportunities to the countries.  In this regard, the Steering Committee agreed the following as the way forward; Parties are fully committed to implement the Zanzibar Declaration and that they will continue to include the national priorities in their government’s planning cycle; Parties have expressed the need to pursue other opportunities to fundraise to implement actions under the Zanzibar Declaration. In this particularly interest, Parties have jointly agreed that they will pursue Global Environmental Facility (GEF7) funding opportunity. 


Chief Conservator of Forests Emilio Mugo leds the other forestry Directors in launching the report on illegal timber trade.