Thursday, May 26, 2016

Senegal's decision to re-open its borders allows Jammeh to resume illegal timber exports

Gambian trucks of smuggled timber seized in Senegal in 2015
Senegal's remaining forest cover can be found in the Casamance region, an area estimated to be 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) that, according to the former Senegalese Environment, Haida El Ali, may be depleted in two years, because of the illegal logging and the smuggling of the products across the border into The Gambia.

The redwood is smuggled from Casamance to Gambia via Yaya Jammeh's home village of Kanilai which is then exported through the port of Banjul to China where the demand is extremely high.

"This unacceptable trafficking is devastating for our forests and it has to stop," the former Environment Minister who served in the early part of Macky Sall's government.

According to Haida, traffickers have copped down 1 million trees or 10,000 hectares since 2010.  At this rate, Casamance will lose all of its forest cover by 2018.  Northern Senegal has lost all of its forest cover as the Sahara Desert advances southward.

By contrast, Gambia has earned $ 238.5 million from the illegal export of redwood to China, the second highest in West Africa after Nigeria.  Gambia has only 4,000 hectares of forests according to Mr. Haida.

According to report, Senegal's Environment Minister has not offered its comments to Mr. Haida's claims which should be a cause for concern, especially when Senegal's decided a few days ago to re-open its border on short notice after closing it for over three months, causing significant disruption in the illegal timber trade.

The cashew trade was equally affected during the closure most of which is exported to India, resulting in both China and India applying pressure on the government of Macky Sall to reopen the border allowing the illegal loggers and smugglers to resume their illegal activities at the expense of the environment and the Senegalese economy.