Millions of dollars of one of the world’s most sought-after hardwoods is coming from an unlikely source – South Sudan.
Originally planted in the 1940’s by British colonists, South Sudan’s teak reserves are among the largest in Africa. Without regulatory protections in place, what could have become a sustainable revenue source for the young nation has instead enriched domestic armed actors and foreign elites, further contributing to South Sudan’s instability.
The report, Money Tree: Teak and Conflict in South Sudan, serves as the first comprehensive review of the regulatory and security environment surrounding this little-researched topic. Following murky global supply chains, the authors leveraged trade data to find that the size of South Sudan’s teak trade is likely thousands of times larger than previous estimations. If sufficiently regulated and managed, teak could be a sustainable revenue source for South Sudan’s economy and local communities. If left unchecked, unregulated and unsustainable logging will continue to decimate remaining teak reserves and deprive endangered wildlife of important habitat. In the meantime, the profits benefit armed actors on both sides of the conflict as well as political elites. The story of South Sudan’s teak reminds us that natural resource crime and conflict finance are inextricably linked, meaning international markets have an obligation to responsibly engage with the teak sector. The exploitation of natural resources is not only an environmental problem, but a human security issue.