A local logger cuts boards out of a felled ceiba tree near Asamankese in eastern Ghana. The man with the chainsaw paid the farmer $50, as his gang climbed a hillside in western Ghana. The gang passed coffee fields until they came to a giant hardwood tree. The farmer, who was pleased to have the money in his back pocket, watched as as the gang cut down the tree and used the chainsaw to dismember it deftly into quarters and then into crude planks. The loggers left behind little more than a pile of sawdust, as they put the planks on their heads and walked the half mile back to the roadside. From there, later that day, trucks would pick up the planks, transporting them either to a local timber market or to one of the dozens of furniture workshops between the forest and the Ghanaian capital, Accra. You can witnesses such scenes almost anywhere in the surviving forests of tropical Africa. The work of local chainsaw loggers meeting local timber needs is a hidden harvest, often illegal and rarely included in national forest or economic statistics. Many regard the gangs as the biggest threat to forests in many […]

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