Barcodes, the very symbol of commercialism, is set to become the saving grace of the precious trees in Liberia.
Liberia, on the west coast of Africa, is rich in beautiful rainforests, home to pygmy hippos, Diana monkeys, duikers and of course, countless gorgeous trees.
Some years ago, ex-president Charles Taylor started plundering the forests to finance a ravaging civil war. The UN responded by placing sanctions on Liberian timber.
The current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, seeing the potential of the timber industry to boost the country’s post-war economy, has established a legitimate and tree-friendly way of doing so. Sirleaf has signed an agreement with the European Union that requires companies bringing Liberian lumber into the EU to be able to provide proof that it’s legal.
This is managed through a system whereby every legally harvested tree and every cut log in Liberia has to carry a barcode that makes it traceable. A British company, Helveta, has developed a tracking system to serve this purpose.
While this system won’t be without its challenges, Liberia now has the opportunity to pioneer a new model for legal and sustainable logging.