Friday, August 08, 2008

TRADE-AFRICA: New Technology to Sever Timber's Link to Conflict?

TRADE-AFRICA: New Technology to Sever Timber's Link to Conflict?

By Michael Deibert

Inter Press Service

NEW YORK, Aug 8, 2008 (IPS) - While conflict diamonds or blood diamonds, as they are known, have gained attention the world over in terms of the role illicit gems play in fuelling warfare, the role that the timber trade has played in abetting conflict has received considerably less consideration. That may be beginning to change.

The world over, though particularly in West Africa, both legal and illegal commerce in timber has played a substantial role in the enabling of conflicts in countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The ruin globally wreaked on forests is having wide-ranging consequences.

According to the 2007 World Bank report ''At Loggerheads: Agricultural Expansion, Poverty Reduction, and Environment in the Tropical Forests'', nearly 70 million people—many from an indigenous background —live in remote areas of closed tropical forests, while an additional 735 million live in or near trop¬ical forests and savannas. Both groups rely heavily on forested areas for fuel, food and income.

The World Bank report went on to warn that tropical forests were shrinking at a rate of five percent a decade and that ''by the middle of the 21st century only shreds of this once-vast forest may be left''. This trend, the report noted, will have a dramatic effect on climate change, adding three billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, something that would affect people far beyond forest-dwelling communities.

Stepping into this contentious landscape, Helveta, a firm based in the United Kingdom, is marketing software that it says will help regularise the fragmented supply chain for timber. It should also lessen the risk for companies of purchasing wood that has been illegally procured.

Read the full article here.

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