Zain Asher’s MARKETPLACE AFRICA programme on CNN, part of the “Profit Point”, sponsored by DANGOTE industries (Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian industrialist, is on FORBES list as the richest man in Africa) aired a programme about two weeks ago extolling reforestation programmes in Sierra Leone by the local timber industry.
Zain Asher, a British-Nigerian, said that “Sierra Leone has lush forest cover”, with a “blooming timber industry”, which last year “exported just over $20 million” of timber products.
Zain Asher said that Sierra Leone’s “natural resources are quickly disappearing”, according to Global Forest Watch.
The video then shifted to its real PURPOSE: to do public relations for a company called “MIRO” that is planting trees in Sierra Leone, and other West Africa countries - for probable use as furniture, or, cooking fuel. And to whitewash the horrific ecological degradation by largely Chinese-owned logging companies operating in Sierra Leone.
Another articulate lady was also featured in the video saying that MIRO industry has planted 8,500 hectares of trees. As if she was reporting, she revealed these chilling stats: “West Africa alone has lost over 90 percent of its forest cover”, and is now a “net importer of timber products”.
Zain Asher then spoke of a global timber industry before COVID-19 that was valued at $536 billion, which is expected to rise to $720 billion by 2025 - which Sierra Leone can tap into - as if those tantalizing figures can compensate for the enormous species as a result of commercial logging.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Braima Sam-King, was also featured talking of the “huge marketing opportunity” of the emerging tree planting trade and timber industry, and about 2,000,000 trees Sierra Leone would plant, giving duty free privileges to investors so the country can take advantage of the timber industry.
A white man in the video said “forestry is a fantastic job creator”- which sounded like Justin Bieber-like music in a country where about 70% of youth of employable age are unemployed.
It was really a dirge for the millions of Sierra Leoneans who would go through living-death and premature death scenarios because of the short-sighted actions of their government, and the cover-up of Zain Asher of CNN. Maybe, it was just sheer ignorance by those Africans who took part in it. Or, it manifested that “slave mentality” of Africans I have so often written about – blindly putting value to whatever the white man puts value to; and devaluing, and destroying, their invaluable resources like the tropical rainforests.
Whatever it was, Zain Asher and her ‘slave master’ CNN programme was a reprehensible cover up for the enormous damage commercial logging companies have done (are doing) in Sierra Leone, and West Africa. Let me present my case in the Court of Public Opinion.
Loss of Forest Cover is an Existential Threat to Humanity
In May 2011, Sassan Saatchi of Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab and colleagues, published a paper in PNAS with new carbon stock estimates for global tropical forests; and it states that “Between 1975 and 2013, Sierra Leone lost 30 percent of its forest cover…”
It is worse than that: especially with intensified activities of Chinese-owned logging companies over the past ten years – what I have published as “ecological genocide”.
Sierra Leone has some 938 species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles; 2,090 vascular plants - according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Center. There is the Gola National Park in Sierra Leone. It is 700 square kilometers. It has 330 birds species so far recorded – it includes the rufous fishing owl, the Gola malimbe, the white necked picathertes, etc. There is also the elusive pygmy hippo; and an estimated population of dozens of rare species of chimpanzees and 49 species of larger mammals.
These species are endangered; they could go extinct; that is why global greens have recognized the area as a biological hotspot. (Tropical forests like are in the Amazon Forest in Brazil, the Congo Basin of D.R. Congo, or in Sierra Leone ... are said to be the ‘lungs of the earth’ – absorbing the excess carbon dioxide humanity has pumped into the atmosphere since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, and are a brake to global warming, and the Armageddon-like scenarios being predicted by credible scientists if carbon emissions are not urgently checked).
Tall Trees and Poor Soils!!
Either Zain Asher deliberately lied, or, is terribly ignorant: Sierra Leone does NOT have “lush forest cover”. Over half of Sierra Leone is in the tropical rainforest zone. The soils in tropical rainforests are very poor. According to the textbook "Tropical Rainforests: Latin American Nature and Society in Transition", edited by Susan E. Place, these are reasons for the poor soils. They are highly acidic. The roots of plants rely on an acidity difference between the roots and the soil in order to absorb nutrients. When the soil is acidic, there is little difference, and therefore little absorption of nutrients from the soil. Even if humans artificially add nutrients to the soil, the nutrients mostly wash away and are not absorbed by the plants. The high temperature and moisture of tropical rainforests cause dead organic matter in the soil to decompose more quickly than in other climates, thus releasing and losing its nutrients rapidly.
The high volume of rain in tropical rainforests washes nutrients out of the soil more quickly than in other climates. When farmers – using environmentally-unfriendly slash-and-burn methods in Sierra Leone - cut down tropical rainforests and use its soil to try to grow crops, they find little success because of the poor nature of the soils.
In most parts of Sierra Leone, farmers whose agricultural output is about 60% of the country’s GDP, are finding it increasingly difficult to get higher yield because of poor soils. Youth are fleeing the rural areas for cities in droves. After about 100 years of industrial mining for Sierra Leone’s high value diamonds, iron ore, rutile, bauxite – which also have caused irreparable and irreversible loss of forest cover - there are almost no industries in the cities the youth rush to.
Rainforest Plants Produce Life-Saving Medicines
Nearly 90% of human diseases known to medical science can be treated with prescription drugs derived from nature, especially tropical rainforests. Billion-dollar drug companies today cooperate with conservationists, native groups, and various governments to find and catalog rainforest plants for their medicinal value, and synthesize their bio-active compounds. It is estimated that 120 prescription drugs sold worldwide today are derived directly from rainforest plants. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, more than two-thirds of all medicines found to have cancer-fighting properties come from rainforest plants.
Some of the compounds in rainforest plants are also used to treat malaria, heart disease, bronchitis, hypertension, rheumatism, diabetes, muscle tension, arthritis, glaucoma, dysentery, and tuberculosis, etc. Many commercially available anesthetics, enzymes, hormones, laxatives, cough mixtures, antibiotics, and antiseptics are also derived from rainforest plants and herbs. (SOURCE: By Earth Talk; February 18, 2019; Tropical Rainforests Are Nature's Medicine Cabinet; thoughtco.com).
Scientists all over the world still know less than one percent of the medicinal use of plants in the tropical rainforests. Traditional herbalists who live in these forests have more knowledge on the uses of them than the best scientists in the world. When you cut a huge tree down in the forest, it is not only the many plant and animal life that live on and depend on that one tree that would be lost, but, the rarest of knowledge of the utilization of these forest's species by the traditional herbalists that risk being lost – forever.
Reforestation is Not Substitute for Deforestation in Tropical Rainforests
Over millions of years, tropical rainforests have evolved dense vegetation, plant and animal and microorganism life that intertwine and are interdependent in a wonderful display of predator-versus-prey and symbiosis. For example, “lianas” - they are vines that grow in tropical rainforests. They begin their life on the forest floor but depend on the support of other plants for growth and survival. Lianas have thick, woody stems that attach to the tendrils or sucker roots of other plants. Lianas can also wrap or wind around the trunks of trees and reach greater heights…. Near the top, lianas usually spread onto other trees or intertwine with each other to create a kind of network of vines. Such a network allows arboreal animals to move from one tree to another easily. One mature tree in the tropical rainforest could have taken hundreds of years to reach maturity and could be home to 20 to 50 other plant and animal life, as well as micro-organisms. You don’t chop off that tree and glibly say you can plant a new tree as substitute.
I am the brain, and was the CEO, of the SAVE MY FUTURE CONSERVATION SOCIETY (SAMFU) in Liberia in 1987; and SAMFU was financed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WFF)-International and the German Forestry Mission to Liberia, collaborating with the Society for Nature of Liberia (SCNL) and the governmental Forestry Development Authority… to produce and publish GREENLOVE magazine in1989, which I was Editor for.
Since the early 1980s, I started writing for Africa to save its tropical rainforests and use them as bargaining chips to support demands for Reparations for Protracted Holocaust of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and Trans-Saharan Slave Trade; better international trading terms with the West, and a form of ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa – my appeal is more urgent now as Climate Change emergency means that no African country has the financial and human resources capacity for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation measures. T
hat is why in the organization I am Founder and CEO for, the SLAVE SHIP-FREEDOM SHIP (founded in Nigeria in 1992), my mantra has been: “$2 trillion annually for man-made Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Measures for Africa from the richest nations of the world (And Arab nations that took part in the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade)”.
By Oswald Hanciles, The Guru.