A report published by Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Mukula production and trade in Zambia shows that an estimated US$1.7 million bribes were paid to government officials to facilitate the export of Mukula logs.
The report is entitled the ’Informality, global capital, rural development and the environment: Mukula (rosewood) trade between China and Zambia and the study took 18 months and covered four districts namely Luangwa, Mansa, Mkushi and Kaoma.
It shows that recent Mukula production in Zambia could have amounted to about 110,000 cubic metres (m3) per annum, with revenue losses of about US$3.2 million.
Results of the study also show that rural villagers are increasingly forging direct links with foreign investors, producing innovative business models that accelerate the rate of small-scale production and extraction of resources, all the while still embedded in the rural economic system characterized by legal ambiguity and limited government oversight.
It says as a consequence, such models repeat historical patterns of exploitation with local cutters receiving an average price of about US$23 per cubic metre of timber harvested while manufacturers in China pay about US$1,000–1,100 per cubic metre to importers, before any further processing is done on the exported logs.
The report also observes that across time and along the chain, politics, vested interests and elite capture have left little space for environmental concerns regarding the sustainability of Mukula production or any other species, for that matter.
It shows that in Zambia’s case, the search for Mukula and rosewood more generally has spread across neighbouring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Malawi over a short period of time, causing havoc in those countries’ natural capital.
It says power hierarchies at all levels of the state and across borders try to benefit as much and as quickly as possible, ultimately hampering the establishment of sustainable businesses.
The report has recommended that the Zambian government must step up its efforts in protecting the Zambian forests and its people’s long-term livelihoods by implementing the innovative measures included in the Forests Act of 2015 regarding community, joint and private forest management.