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The timber seized during “Operation Trunk” earlier this year will be used to produce, by 2019, 800,000 school desks, pledged the Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celso Correia, on Thursday.
During Operation Trunk, brigades headed by ministry officials descended on timber yards throughout northern and central Mozambique, many of which were run by Chinese companies. Illegal operations were found in three quarters of the timber yards investigated, and a decision was taken that illegally logged timber should be put to a useful purpose.
Correia spoke of the plans to convert illegal timber into school desks in the presentation he gave during an extraordinary meeting of the Consultative Council of his Ministry, chaired by President Filipe Nyusi.
Updating Nyusi on Operation Trunk, Correia said that over 222,376 cubic metres of logs had been seized in the operation, plus 18,293 cubic metres of sawn timber. 2,639 fines were imposed for illegal timber operations, amounting to a total of slightly more than 700 million meticais (about 11.5 million US dollars). The violations of norms for forestry operations led to the suspension of the licences of 330 operators.
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As for reforestation, Correia said that in 2015-2016 about 4,140 hectares were reforested with native and exotic species, for purposes of conservation and community benefits.
During that two year period about 335,000 cubic metres of unprocessed logs and 606,000 cubic metres of sawn timber were exported, mostly to China. This year, however, a total ban has been imposed on the export of logs.
The figures for exports are questionable. In the past researchers have found that the amount of Mozambican timber entering China is vastly superior to the amount declared as leaving Mozambique, which suggests that large amounts of illegally logged timber has been slipped out of the country under the cover of legal exports.
Communities are supposed to share in the benefits from forestry operations. Correia said that over the two years 118 million meticais was channelled to 805 communities living in the areas where logging occurs. But there has been a decline of 44 per cent in these funds between 2015 and 2016. Correia said this indicated the need for closer coordination between the provincial directorates of his ministry and those of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
As for the “Secure Land” programme, Correia said his Ministry has, since its creation in 2015, granted around half a million land titles (known as DUATs). This means that the percentage of the population with written title to the land it farms has risen from 1.6 to 10 per cent.
Correia added that, since Nyusi’s government took office in January 2015, there have been no grants of land to companies in excess of 10,000 hectares. This was a change in policy, said the Minister, to ensure sustainability in land management.
Unlike his previous visits to Ministries, Nyusi did not speak at the Consultative Council or enter into dialogue with Ministry officials, except to praise the good organisation of the Ministry, and the work it had done in the short period since it has been created. This uncharacteristic silence was possibly due to pressures of time, since Nyusi had a very crowded schedule on Thursday.
He promised to return at a later date for “profound work” with the Ministry.