Silva used to be a farmer growing cassava, corn and beans. Eight years ago, Chinese businesspeople visited the area and offered him a high salary for cutting down trees. They lent him a chainsaw and now come by weekly to pick up the trunks by truck, taking a bumpy 60km dirt road.
He knows what he’s doing is illegal. “But what else can I do? When I was a farmer I earned almost nothing and I have to feed seven children.”
... He and his two helpers earn between 160 and 300 Mozambican meticais (between R60 and R100) a tree, depending on the type of wood. The Chinese sell the rare exotic hardwood trees such as chanate, ebony, monzo (leadwood), panga panga, pau preto and wenge for a hundred times as much back in their home country. Still, Silva’s income isn’t bad in a country like Mozambique, where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line and monthly salaries rarely exceed 3 000 meticais (just over R1,000).
* Learn more about illegal logging in Mozambique in the EIA report First Class Crisis at http://eia-international.org/reports/first-class-crisis-chinas-criminal-and-unsustainable-intervention-in-mozambiques-miombo-forests
Other Mozambican loggers earn less. The 28-year-old Pedro Abilio, for example, receives 2 500 meticais (about R900) for each truck of 80 logs he delivers. He loses some of this money because he officially works for a Mozambican intermediary. The wood, however, is handled directly by the Chinese, who pick up the logs every week using seven trucks that come all the way to Abilio’s remote village in the middle of the forest in Tete province.
Like Silva and Abilio, many Mozambicans are illegally logging for Chinese companies. Often, in the beginning, the Chinese lend them the money to buy equipment such as a chainsaw, locking them into dependency and forcing them to continue cutting to be able to pay off their debts. By buying from individual Mozambicans, the Chinese avoid the high costs of obtaining a logging licence and the obligation to replant trees ...
“If we get pulled over by the police, we give them some money so we can continue our journey,” a smiling “Mr Huo” says as he introduces himself. The 53-year-old Chinese businessperson, who looks like a cowboy in a green camouflage jacket and a grey hat, is the boss of Yixing Madeira, one of the many Chinese timber companies located along the main road to Beira.
On our way to this port city, we pass dozens of trucks piled with logs, often driven by Chinese businesspeople. Tens of thousands of tree trunks, heaped into high mountains, sit waiting on the compounds to be shipped to China, revealing the enormous rate at which the Chinese are emptying the Mozambican primeval forests ...
Huo says candidly that he prefers to buy wood from individual Mozambicans because this allows him “to make more profit”. It doesn’t bother his conscience. “All rangers, police officers and politicians are criminals over here,” he says.
He relates that rangers showed up on his doorstep recently, offering to sell him illegally logged trees. Huo laughs loudly when we ask what he’s going to do when there’s no wood left in Mozambique. “Move to the next country where there’s still wood, obviously.”
Huo is totally convinced that Mozambique will be stripped of all its hardwood forests “within just a few years”.
Read the full story at http://mg.co.za/article/2015-03-19-moz-will-be-stripped-of-its-forests-in-just-a-few-years
#Mozambique #Africa #China #forests
Image: Mozambique log pile, 2012 (c) EIA