Great article on rosewood

I just stumbled across this article this morning when looking through my feeds. This is a very extensive article on what is happening to the environment in Madagascar and the environment in which people live over there.

National Geographic: Madagascar’s Pierced Heart

Here are some excerpts:

Remon doesn’t like the work. The timber boss who employs him—but whose name he does not know—has told Remon that he must paddle all day without pause because the rangers have been bribed to stay away for only a finite period, after which another bribe will be expected. Still, transporting the fallen trees is better than cutting them down, which had been Remon’s previous job. He quit after concluding that the risks had become too great. While illegal logging had been going on for years, the pace had suddenly escalated: The forest was unpoliced and filled with organ ized gangs, a free-for-all of deforestation spurred by the collapse of Madagascar’s government in March of 2009 and by the insatiable appetite of Chinese timber procurers, who imported more than 200 million dollars’ worth of rosewood from the country’s northeastern forests in just a few months. One rosewood cutter Remon knew had been robbed of his harvest by forest thugs who told him, “There’s 30 of us, one of you.” And he’s just heard that two men were decapitated with a machete over a timber dispute a few days ago.

In September 2009, after months during which up to 460,000 dollars’ worth of rosewood was being illegally harvested every day, the cash-strapped new government reversed a 2000 ban on the export of rosewood and released a decree legalizing the sale of stockpiled logs. Pressured by an alarmed international community, the gov ernment reinstated the ban in April. Yet logging continues.

The residents of Antalaha who suddenly found themselves dodging motorcycle traffic also began to notice the price of fish, rice, and other daily goods begin to climb. The reason was simple: Fewer men were out at sea or in the fields.

“They’re in the forest,” says Michel Lomone, the vanilla exporter. “Everyone’s gone to the forest.”

The rosewood is cut into logs about seven feet long. Another team of two men tie ropes around each log and proceed to drag it out of the forest to the river’s edge, a feat that will take them two days and earn them $10 to $20 a log, depending on the distance. While staggering through the forest myself, from time to time I come upon the jarring apparition of two stoic figures tugging a 400-pound log up some impossible gradient or down a waterfall or across quicksand-like bogs—a hard labor of biblical scale, except that these men are doing this for money. As is the man the pair would meet up with at the river, waiting to tie the log to a handcrafted radeau, or raft, to help it float down the rapids ($25 a log). As is the pirogueman awaiting the radeau where the rapids subside ($12 a log). As is the park ranger whom the timber bosses have bribed to stay away ($200 for two weeks). As are police at checkpoints along the road to Antalaha ($20 an officer). The damage to the forest is far more than the loss of the precious hardwoods: For each dense rosewood log, four or five lighter trees are cut down to create the raft that will transport it down the river.

Check out the article, it is very interesting.

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