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October 17 2021 6:47 AM ˚

370 tonnes of wood for poor families to keep warm, curb illegal trade in firewood

2. Firewood
In an effort to end poaching of trees from forests in north Jordan, the Ministry of Agriculture will grant low-income families up to 370 tonnes of firewood. (Photo: Pixabay)
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AMMAN — The Ministry of Agriculture will grant low-income families in Northern Jordan up to 370 tonnes of firewood, to end poaching of trees from forests in the north of the country.اضافة اعلان

The initiative is in collaboration with the governorates of Jerash and Ajloun and the Ministry of Social Development.

The grant is a continuation of previous initiatives that aim to end attacks on forests in the north of Jordan, Lwrance Mousa Al-Majali, the Ministry of Agriculture spokesman, told Jordan News in a phone interview.

The families that will benefit from this grant will be selected via a committee created by the governors and the ministry of social development, according to Majali. Each family will receive one ton of wood.

The grant process is already in action, and the committee will give out the 300 to 370 tonnes of wood “until the last piece of wood available,” the spokesman added. 

After a long struggle between the people’s needs and protecting the forest areas, the ministry of agriculture has arrived at a balance.

Its initiatives are slowly but surely succeeding in improving the poor relationship between the people and forests in Jordan.

As a result, attacks on forests this year went down by 40 percent from last year, according to Majali. 

“People living close to the forests and the people of provinces like Jerash and Ajloun did not protect these forests because they did not gain any economic benefits from them.

That’s why the ministry (of agriculture) created an inclusive plan to collect wood and give it back to the people residing in these provinces,” Majali said. 

The wood was initially collected as an attempt to clear the forest floor to protect against forest fires before they happened.

Then a three-month long program was launched, which employed around 6,000 men from the provinces, to clean up the forests after harsh weather conditions.

Trees were trimmed, and sick trees were cut down. Three hundred tonnes of wood was accumulated as a result.

They also succeeded in reducing the risk of forest fires and the costs of such fires by 30 percent compared to last year, according to the spokesman. 

“The firewood initiative will go on for years; we will continue to hand out the free wood to low-income families and to people living close to the forests. Our priority is that the wood from these forests doesn’t go to Amman, but goes to benefit residents of the forest areas first,” Majali said. 

People who need the wood to stay warm in winter see this as a good initiative, giving them a substitute to the illegal cutting of trees. But this would only decrease a part of the attacks on forests, according to Khalid al-Irani, the president of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).

“We have another issue that could be bigger than low-income families cutting trees for warmth, which is the firewood trade whereby merchants illegally cut trees and sell them at high prices in Amman,” Irani told Jordan News in an interview. 

“There are organized groups that cut trees and profit from the firewood trade. The agricultural and environmental ministries, in addition to the RSCN, always work to limit and control such attacks, and they’re succeeding to a certain extent, but the issue still exists,” Irani said. 

Majali said that the ministry is currently studying how to help people living close to the forests. The goal is to allow them to feel responsible for the forest by allowing them to derive economic benefit from the forest. 

Among the ways by which people can derive economic benefit, Majali said are “touristic services that won’t negatively affect the forests: like food and drinking services for hikers.

This way people will protect the forest and feel that it’s important to them and will keep it clean.” 

However, problems still exist. “The lack of mobility for rangers is a weakness, they don’t necessarily have cars and, they need to be better equipped to do a proper job,” Irani said. 

He suggested some ways to improve on the government’s efforts to tackle the illegal firewood trade, among these ways is to invest in enforcement and manpower, equipment, mobility, and radios to help mobilize more police in the forest areas, as well as increasing punishments and fines for such attacks on forested areas.

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