International demand for charcoal is crippling Namibian forests, a report has said.

Forests
forests

In its report titled “Playing With Fire – Human Misery, Environment Destruction and Summer BBQs,” a Dutch foundation called Fern that is involved in the preservation of forests and coordinates activities by non-governmental organizations in the EU says charcoal export from Africa to Europe and Latin America is worth about 3.1 billion U.S dollars per year.

The organization also said Namibia is one of the countries whose forests are fast depleting because charcoal harvesters.

The biggest consumer of Namibian charcoal is Britain that consumes more than 60,000 tons of charcoal per year. 80 percent of Britain’s annual charcoal consumption is imported.

Fern is not only worried with the rapid depletion of forests but the conditions of Namibians working in the charcoal industry.

A campaign coordinator with Fern, Saskia Ozinga, likened the workers’ living conditions to those of a refuge camp.

An investigation by Fern showed that the workers do not have any protective clothing and that their living conditions are appalling.

The fact that charcoal producers in Namibia do not incur high production costs, Fern said, the wholesale price is 1,424 British pounds less than a tonne of British produced charcoal.

Although by law, British retailers are supposed to sell charcoal certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), smaller and unmonitored outlets have access to charcoal from elsewhere, including Namibia.

The organization is also worried about environmental impact of uncontrolled cutting of trees.

“Yet consumers are oblivious to the conditions it’s produced under, with the widespread illegal harvesting of trees, and many workers living in the sort of atrocious conditions we’re more used to seeing on our TV screens beamed in from a makeshift refugee camp in a disaster zone,” she told a British newspaper early this week.

The Namibian labour ministry is on record saying that government was working to address the issue of exploitation in the charcoal industry, while campaigners have called for an overhaul of whole sector. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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