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News and Press ReleasesIllegal Logging Threatens South Sudan Forests

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Illegal Logging Threatens South Sudan Forests

11-15-2013, 05:05 AM
Voice of America



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Illegal Logging Threatens South Sudan Forests


    November 14, 2013


    byandnbsp;Yasolo Oketa James

    South Sudanese officials are concerned that they might lose one of the country's treasures if locals in Eastern Equatoria state continue to cut down trees in the 14 forest reserves in the state.

    But residents of the state, like Ohide Pios, insist they have no choice but to continue with their illegal activity. The wood, which Pios turns into charcoal or uses to build shelter for his family, is his only means of making a living, he said.

    "I normally cut dry trees around the forest and I burn charcoal out ofandnbsp;it," Pios, who is unemployed and has four children to support, told VOA News.

    "This is my only source of money," he said.andnbsp;

    South Sudanese Forestry Minister Ochan John Bongomin noted that it is illegal to cut downandnbsp;trees in Eastern Equatoria’s 14 forest reserves without firstandnbsp;registering with the authorities.

    Without that rule in place, he said, deforestation would likely be extensive, and that would affect the state’s rain patterns and make floodingandnbsp;worse. Eastern Equatoria could also run out of rare tree types, such as mahogany, he said.

    To beat the problem, South Sudan needs more forestry guards, Bongomin said. The 42 that are currently on the books are not able to prevent illegal logging in thousands of acres of forest, not least of all because the loggers tend to be armed.

    "You find that people go there in big numbers. Unfortunately,andnbsp;currently most of these loggers who go to cut these trees, they haveandnbsp;guns," he said.

    South Sudan officials are also trying to combat the problem by educating communities about which trees they can cut down without damaging the forests' balance.

    "We cannot stop them from building using local materials, but they should be selective when they are cuttingandnbsp;the trees," Bongomin said.

    "There are many trees around which can be cut for building,andnbsp;but the young ones which are not yet ripened should be allowed to ripen,” he said.

    Deputy Forestry Director Daniel Alau said steps are also being taken to plant saplings in affected reserves like Imilai, which has lostandnbsp;more than 10 of its 3,000 acres of tree cover to deforestation.

    Forestry officials will plant thousands of saplings in Imilai in January and, if the effort is a success, they will duplicate it in other reserves like Kalishoniandnbsp;forest in Magwi county, where the Forestry Ministry estimates that at least two percent of the forest's 1,000 acres have been cut down in the last year alone.
                  

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