We drove in silence. Talking wasn’t necessary anymore. We shared the same thoughts; the same thoughts as many others who turn down the long road that cuts through the Mozambican bush to Maputo.
We use to talk about this place a lot. It was one of those re-occurring conversations we had every time we drove that road, marveling at the beauty of the area and thinking what a magnificent nature reserve it would make. It was one of those places that teemed with wild life and plant species – with a canopy of trees for as far as I could see. That was just last year. I wish we had stopped for a coffee break or a pee break, any reason to stop. I wish I had taken a picture and absorbed the colours, shapes and sounds of somewhere wild and beautiful.
We took her for granted, thinking she’d still be there next time. But now she has gone, all of her. And the only evidence of her magnificent past is hill upon hill dotted with smoldering black stumps.
In one year, a 40-50 kilometer stretch of forested land has completely disappeared. And that is only on one part of one road in Mozambique. There are many roads in Mozambique. And where there is a road, there are people. And where there are people, there are no trees.
Mozambique’s forests are being burnt, chopped and ring barked. You are more likely to see a freightliner gunning down the road at reckless speeds heavily loaded with the trunks of 100 year old hard wood trees or bulging sugar sacks of charcoal for sale than an untouched forest.
The main reason for deforestation in Mozambique is due to the heavy use of charcoal to cook with. To make charcoal, an entire area will be burnt; killing all plant species, young and old. Once an area has been burnt, they’ll shift over to the next, destroying that too.
But it’s no use in getting angry with these people. They are simply trying to survive. They are the poorest of all Mozambicans, living day to day struggling to feed their families and to provide medicine when disease hits. How else can they make a living in such a remote area? The answer is to create employment, education, supply electricity etc. But that is airy fairy stuff, something that could take bloody years especially when considering Africa’s track record with matters of urgency! We need something immediate.
The second big cause of deforestation links to the rush to grab Africa’s natural resources; take as much as you can get and leave her bare, baron and raped of herself. Loggers are doing their fair share of damage, stripping the country of her hard wood trees and with no re-plant program in place. Word amongst the loggers is that there is only 5 years worth of hard wood logging left in Mozambique. And I can believe it. We live 60km from the city of Beira. In the last 3 years, the entire stretch of road has been developed and is now lined with sawmills and huge stock piles of hardwood waiting for shipment to China.
People will do what they can get away with. And the fact is that those involved with the big ‘resource’ grab simply don’t give a shit about the environment. There is no use in appealing to them; their vision is short and self-serving, only seeing the zip to their own money bag.
Africa is changing drastically. All those romantic ideas you have of this continent – of game wondering freely, of forests, savannah and infinite wilderness – it’s going quickly! Instead we’re seeing forests in sacks, slabs of wood being sent off shore for your must-have furniture, rhino’s wrongfully being slaughtered for penis problems, herds of elephant being poisoned with cyanide for their tusks and fish in their millions being scooped up for consumption. There is no real control. And the people who have the real power to save this continent from destruction seem not to care.
If I was the president of an African country, I’d be reserving vast areas of land. Cordoning them off from destruction and development. Because neither destruction nor development is going to stop, ever. A country needs development to escape poverty and we all know Africa is rife with poverty.
Imagine if African governments were united in the quest to preserve the natural environment while they still have the chance….maybe then in 50 years time, our children’s children will still have the opportunity to marvel at Africa’s famous wilderness. Maybe then, some of the Africa we know and love will survive.
“When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat your money.”
North America Proverb