Journal of Biodiversity Management & ForestryISSN: 2327-4417

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Research Article, J Biodivers Manage Forestry Vol: 4 Issue: 1

Impact of Small-Scale Logging in Semi Deciduous Forest of Togo (West Africa)

Komlan Akpoto, Adzo Dzifa Kokutsè, Raoufou Radji*, Kossi Adjonou1 and Kouami Kokou
Department of Botany, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lomé, P.O Box 1515, Lomé, Togo
Corresponding author : Raoufou Radji
Department of Botany, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lomé, P.O Box 1515, Lomé, Togo
Tel: (228)90045114 / 22400611
E-mail: [email protected]
Received: September 11, 2014 Accepted: December 23, 2014 Published: December 27, 2014
Citation: Akpoto K, Kokutsè AD, Radji R, Adjonou K, Kokou K (2015) Impact of Small-Scale Logging in Semi Deciduous Forest of Togo (West Africa). J Biodivers Manage Forestry 4:1. doi:10.4172/2327-4417.1000138


Impact of Small-Scale Logging in Semi Deciduous Forest of Togo (West Africa)

In Togo, small-sale or artisanal logging is undergoing much processing with the use of mobile saws. This study is conducted to provide an overview of the supply chain of timber in Litimé (Southwest Togo) and to show the performance of the local enterprise of timber exploitation. In this regard, felling and cut up of forty logs of seventeen species belonging to nine Angiosperm families were followed up in the forest. The influence of the diameters and the heights of the logs are the parameters observed on diverse forms of the products. Results reveal that many species which were not processed before are actively undergoing today. A relationship was established between the low yield, the diameters and the heights of the logs. Results also show that the rate of wastes is important. Consequently, there is a rapid depletion of forest cover and biodiversity, with a considerable negative impact on the Litimé environment.

Keywords: Togo; Litim�; Small-scale enterprise of timber; Low yield; Forest cover; Biodiversity depletion


Togo; Litimé; Small-scale enterprise of timber; Low yield; Forest cover; Biodiversity depletion


The degradation of forest ecosystems represents one of the most important causes of the depletion of biodiversity in the world [1]. All over the world, developing countries register the most important reduction rates of forest areas. Togo is one of the countries where the annual variation of the forest cover is high i.e. 20,000 hectares (ha) between 2000 and 2010, representing a deforestation rate of 5.1% [2]. This situation is due to abusive logging combined with the development of shifting agriculture. Forests’ degradation and fragmentation resulting from these human activities lead to the disappearance or to the scarcity of a great number of plant species, and the loss of ecological services (climate control, soil protection, humus production that improves the fertility and the yield of the soils, water cycle control, protection of the habitat, etc.) which are very important for sustainable development.
Artisanal logging (AL), the most prevalent in most of the tropical countries that produce timber like Nigeria, Cameroun and Ghana, is seen as one of the causes of regression of the forest ecosystems [3]. In Togo, this practice is the most prevalent. In the forests ecosystems, it is conducted with inappropriate tools such as chain saws and axes. Usually, this activity is carried out in the forest by artisanal sawyers’ also known as mobile chain operators. It is a small-scale enterprise (SSE) conducted illegally in most of the cases due to the fact that the activity takes place in forest and requires permission from the forestry authorities. As a matter of fact, the trees of high commercial values are targeted by the sawyers who come to fell them most of the time in the night. The trees can also be sold by the land owners to operators, who come to fell them in the night to avoid the sanctions of the forestry service. The trees felled are cut into pieces depending on the demand of the log, into boards or common rafters of different sizes. The products coming from sawmill timber are conveyed to the big cities for sale. A great part of the biomass including the crown and the rest of the log which cannot be cut because of the rudimentary felling tools, are thus abandoned in the forest.
This processing method, though producing important revenues directly to the local populations, contributes to the degradation of the forest cover due to the practices, the felling techniques, the tools used and the pressure on “key” forest species. Indeed, this sector produces income and employment of labor and despite the danger posed; it is more or less completely beyond the control of the forestry administration [4]. The operations are done without control and with low skill labor which lead to high wastage [3]. In Togo, the situation is alarming today in the sense that the forests in the submoist mountain zone of the country are totally degraded; it remains only some galleries along watercourses [5]. This article evaluates the technical efficiency and the impacts of AL and SSE in the semi deciduous forest of Litimé in Southwest of Togo in order to produce relevant scientific information to orient the elaboration of rational and sustainable operation norms. Specifically it is to (i) identify the actors intervening in this sector; (ii) know the development of the species involved in this type of operation; (iii) analyze the yield and the factors that influence it.

Materials and Methods

Description of the study site
Litimé belongs to the Volta basin, located on the West foothill of the Akposso and Akébou uplands. It is a territory located between the plateaux and the buem at the Ghanaian side with whom it shares a border at the South, at the West and at the North-West on 50 km. It is a peneplain that stretches between the 7°20 and 8° of latitude north (Figure 1). Having an altitude of 200 m, and sloped toward the West, it covers an area of about 500 km2 that is 10% of the forest zone of Togo [6]. The geological substrate is made up of schist’s separated by quartzite’s.
Figure 1: Localization of the Litimé plain in the ecological zone IV.
The weather is subequatorial but the characteristic of Litimé is the orographic effect. The Western escarpment of the Atakora Mountain constitutes a true front that causes the lifting of the warm and cool air of the Atlantic monsoon. This lifting enables the cooling of the air that leads to the water vapor condensation, increasing local rainfall. With an annual accumulated rainfall next to 15000 mm, Litimé is among the rainiest regions of Togo. The month that records the highest rain fall is September (240.9 mm) and the driest is January (101 mm). The average monthly temperatures are on the whole high and vary between 21°C and 28°C. The hottest weathers in the year are from February to April and the coolest are from July to September. The moister due to the existence of forests constitutes a moderating effect of the ambient heat. The annual thermal amplitude is low and is around 6°C. Contrary to the latter, the diurnal thermal amplitude is considerable and can go up to 16°C. The average annual temperature is next to 25° and constitutes one of the characteristics of the warm climate [7].
Litimé is located in the ecological zone IV [6] which is the extension of the semi-deciduous forests of Ghana [8]. According to Akpagana [9], the vegetation of the sub-humid mountainous zone of Togo is of moist semi-deciduous forests where Celtis and Terminalia forests are dominated. The undergrowth of these forests is almost occupied by cash crops (coffee trees and cocoa trees).
Data collection
During this study, two types of data were collected: socioeconomic data and dendrometrical data.
Socio-economic data collection
The AL in Litimé is illegal activity. Therefore, the method used is the Forest Products Networks (FPN) [10], already tested by diverse researchers in the framework of works conducted on forest products. It capitalizes the scientific approaches and innovates by introducing a simple and practical alternative which enables to approach efficiently networks actors in order to obtain verifiable data [11]. In this process, the investigator follows a progression loop starting from the downhill slope to the uphill. The first meeting with any actor must remain brief and simply. Then second and a third meetings enable to create an informal relationship between the investigator and the actors [12]. This procedure was applied to timber operators in Litimé in order to collect the data. It is mainly to know the most processed species and then to identify the new species getting into the business due to the pressure on the traditional timber. A sample of ninety-five people responding to 18-60 years of age of both sex’s criteria and being (gypo, sawyer, planter/farmer and officers from the Environment and Forestry Resources Direction and at Litimé checkpoints) was interviewed. The questionnaires were carried out in a semi-structured way.
Dendometrical data collections
The work here is to establish an environment of trust with the sawyers in order to follow them in their operation. The trees chosen are measured before and after the felling. Forty tree trunks were measured and the measures taken concern the circumference at the bottom and the summit and the height of the logs. The measures did not concern the crown because generally, the operators abandon these parts in the forest (Figure 2). The geographic coordinates of each felling area were taken down. Species are identified either in the field or samples provided by the operators are brought to the herbarium of the University of Lomé for identification.
Figure 2: Protocol of measurement.
Data analysis
Socio-economic data were used to calculate an exploitability index (Ne) of the timber, which is the ratio between the number of people using the species and the total number of interviewees.
Ne: exploitability index; Ni: number of people using the species; Nt: number of interviewees.
For each individual felled, the trunk’s real volume taken Vt and also called log was determined by using equation 1. The yield of the operation was calculated by using equations 2 and 3 [3].
Vt: volume of wood; h: trunk’s real height taken after the felling; Au: section above the trunk; At = π d1 2 /4; Ab: section of the trunk’s base; Ab=π d2 2/4)
The volume of the boards taken from the trunk (Vpl), and the yield of the operation (r) were respectively determined by the equations 2 and 3.
Vpl = L × l × e (2) (r)
L: length of the dashboard; e: thickness of the dashboard; l: width of the dashboard
Vpl: volume of the board; VT = volume of the trunk.
Correlation between trees diameter, height and yield were achieved through R software. Frequency of species, families that the most exploited species belong were determined. Nomenclature used is that of Hutchinson and Dalziel [13] and of Brunel et al. [14].


Organization of the timber sector in Litimé
There is no wood procession unit in the area. The sector is made up of actors, all of them from the informal sector, intervening at different levels. The primary actors are the sawyers. They are youths not having much training in the field of wood cross-cutting (Figure 3). Sawyers, who generally operate illegally, fell trees, cut them into planks, organize transportation to the markets of around villages, cities, Togo capital town (Lomé) and to neighboring countries. These products are stocked on transitional places commonly called “depôt” (Figure 4) and transported to the markets of Lomé by trucks. The transportation from the forest to the “depôts” is generally done by youths of the areas at rates ranging from 0.15 to 0.22 euros according to the type of product and the distance to cover for the transportation from the sawing place to the “depôt”.
Figure 3: Sawyer in activity.
Figure 4: Transitional place of the sawmilled products.
Actors of the second processing are the traders, negotiators, cabinetmakers, and carpenters. These are users and processors of products coming from wood sawmilling. They are involved in the making of the finished goods. A certain number of traders and negotiators living in Litimé, in Lomé or in the surrounding towns of Litimé bring together producers with the local buyers, Europeans and Asians. They gather the quantity and the quality of sawmilled products wanted on the market. They take care of the necessary procedures to enable the transportation of the wood from the “depôts” to the sales place and for wood export. For producers who do not master all the procedures or who haven’t identified a buyer, this help is very crucial. Beside these actors, there is the government through the Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources represented by Water and Forestry Department (DEF). In the context of forestry, DEF is the service that handles the issuance of timber licenses and permits for the movement of forest products operations.
Production of timber in litimé
The analysis of data collected at the checkpoints showed that the production of timber is very important in the study area. Sawmilled products fall under different categories and are sold in many forms. Based forms are distinguished planks, rafters, and beams. And depending on their sizes, the plank can be simple or double and the common rafters stand in “one and half ” (1/5) ; “ two by four ” (2/4) and “ two by six ” (2/6) which are rafters of 5 cm breadth and 1 cm thickness, 4 cm breadth and 2 cm thickness and 6 cm breadth for 2 cm thickness. The presence of other products is also mentioned such as beams, planks, and poles. Simple planks and common rafters occupy a very important place making it 75% of the production because of the high demand on the domestic market. The annual average of the production exported to the capital (Lomé) is estimated at 20468.59 m3 ± 6093.71 in 2008 and at 23031.74 m3 ± 6728.59 in 2009 representing an increment of 12.52% (Table 1).
Table 1: Volume of wood processed between the years 2008 and 2009.
Species processed as timber in Litimé
A total of 40 trees distributed into 17 species and 9 families were recorded. These species were subdivided into two categories on wood knowledge criterion bases in Litimé. Thus, the first category includes species that no one was interested in before and which have become timber of excellence (Ficus mucuso, Cola gigantea, Alstonia boonei and Antiaris africana). They are very well represented with a relative frequency greater than 9% (Figure 3). In the same group, there are species poorly represented. In fact, producers are gradually returning these species in the series of usable wood. It’s about Pycnanthus angolensis, Albizia zygia, Sterculia oblonga and Vitex doniana. The second category concerns the past and sought exploited species. Today, they are scarce (Milicia excelsa, Nauclea diderrichii, Piptadeniatrum africanum, Terminalia superba, Triplochiton scleroxylon) or no longer exist in the area (Mansonia altissima and Terminalia ivorensis). Sometimes, when found in isolated individual, it is because the tree is followed up by an owner.
Yield of timber processing in Litimé
The calculation of the total volume of planks and stems used enabled to evaluate the losses of each tree as well as the yield. For a total volume of samples equal to 916.69 m3, 86.68 m3 products are obtained and 830.01 m3 are lost. The average yield is evaluated at 10.91% ± 6. 39%. There is a correlation between the height and the yield (P=0.004), on the one hand, and between the diameter and the yield on the other (P= 0.016) (Figure 5). These results highlight the correlation between the diameter, tree height and the yield of the operation.
Figure 5: Rank-frequency of processed species.
However, it should be noted that this correlation is negative. This shows that depending on the practices in the area, the trees of great diameter and height give low yield with sawmilling. Indeed for trees having diameter between the range of 66 and 99 cm, the yield is of 13.34 ± 6.57 %. It is of 10.81 ± 6.15% for trees whose diameters are in the range of 100 and 149 cm. Diameters located between 150-199 cm and between 200-249 cm gave respectively a yield of 8.53 ± 5.27% and 9.99 ± 9.55%.Trees whose diameters are ≥ 250 cm, have a very low yield of the order of 4.60 ± 2.69% (Figure 6).
Figure 6: Correlation between diameter, height of trees and the yield.
Concerning the yield of the wood processing, the height of the trunks; Figure 7 shows that trunks having a height ≤ 10 m give a yield equals to 17 ± 7.3%. Trees having height between 12.4 and 15.7 m give a yield of 12 ± 6.31%. Trunks height between 16 and 25 m have a yield approximately equal to 10 ± 5.99% and a yield of 6 ± 5.68% for truncated height greater than 26 m.
Figure 7: Yield against classes of diameter and height.
The lack of experience of the sawyers is also another factor that influences the yield of this operation in Litimé. Indeed 90% of those surveyed did not have any training in sawmilling or wood crosscutting. They are people who embraced the profession because it is lucrative. Much of beads are abandoned especially if they don’t present a good form or if they don’t meet the required sizes (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Scene of logging in the Litimé forest.


This study shows that AL as currently practiced in Litimé threatens dangerously plant genetic resources and leads to excessive deforestation. It is an operation which knew an increment of about 13% between 2008 and 2009. This high rate is far from the reality taking into account the importance of the illegal loggings which do not pass through the checkpoints of state services and the ever increasing number of other species of sawmilling such as planks, poles and posts which are not reported in this study. This increment will be even more important nowadays for the fact that the estimated demands in timber (sawmill product and logs) on the national scale is of 125,000 m3 in 2020 [15]. Litimé being one of the supplying areas in natural sawmill wood products; this area in Togo is critically endangered because an important demand implies an increase of the processing.
These days, the species encountered are mostly species newly enrolled on the list of timber. Indeed, the species currently processed are mostly the ones nobody was formerly interested in. Milicia exelsa a species formerly identify as disappearing [16] is present in the current study with a high frequency. This frequency can be explained by the semi-domestication of the species; landowners kept willingly some trees in their farms. This development of timber species is also recorded in other timber export countries [1,17,18]. Due to the current rate, even fruit trees notably Vitex doniana are part of slaughtered species presently felled as timber in Litimé.
The results show also an overexploitation of an unlimited number of species in the area. The processing was selective in the past and has led to the scarcity or complete disappearance of some species characteristic of the area. Indeed, most of species like Celtis zenkeri, Aubrevillea kerstingii and Parinari excelsa formerly recorded [9,14] as species processed in the area were not found in the current study. The disappearance of the species in very fragmented areas by wood sawmilling was showed [19]. The selective logging favors genetic erosion. The consequences of the disappearance of certain tree species in the forest ecosystem are less known and loggers will therefore not take it into account [20]; it is very harmful for the forest ecological sustainability and also for its management.
The yields of the holding are very low, ranging from 6% to 17% depending on the heights of the trunks and of 4.6% to 13.3% depending on diameters. This yield means a low rate of timber obtained during the sawmilling; showing therefore the important quantity of wood lost during the sawmilling of the log. The average yield is estimated at 10.91%. The works conducted in Ogun State in southwest Nigeria show a yield of 50.8% [3]. Still in Nigeria, Udo [21] estimates at 46% the yield of wood in homemade sawmilling with sawyers in the area of Cross River State. The very low result in Litimé in Togo shows that wood processing is carried out with a high waste (90% against 51% in Nigeria) with the same tools. Indeed in Litimé much woody biomass is abandoned in the forest. It is notably the crown, the lateral branches, spurs and certain parts of the trunk. Only the sections of the stem that represent the current required dimensions on the domestic market are cut (5 m and 2.5 m).These results are not at all profitable in terms of wood economy. It is appears that AL is very wasteful with a wide cut, and produces curved boards with a very rough finish as reported by Samuel et al. [22]. According to Pulki [23], waste in this activities result from poor work method, felling and bucking technique.
The results of this study show that the diameter and the height of trees are significantly correlated to the yield. However, these two parameters explain only a small part of this yield and the trends show that the bigger the diameter of the trees and the greater the height are, the fewer the products the sawyers get are. Indeed trees in natural forest of Litimé evolved without silvicultural treatment, thereby shaped defects (presence of warping, lateral branches and of many spurs) are very common on tree trunks of large diameter. Therefore, operators are only interested in parts of trunks exhibiting good straightness, due to rudimentary tools they use. Thus, they abandon a great part of the trees felled in the forest. Furthermore diameters and heights of trees, there are also other parameters that explain the low yield obtained. It’s about the notch of the saw chain that consuming 1 cm of wood at each cutting. The lack of sawyers experience is also another factor that influences the yield of this operation in Litimé. The interview results show that 90% Litimé sawyers are people without any training in sawmill and wood processing. These sawyers inexperienced produce a yield of 27%, while the yield is 60% for experienced sawyers in Nigeria [24]. These surveys also revealed that licenses cuts are often not obtained by sawyers or they are obtained fraudulently. However, these timber licenses have to aim the identification of producers and control of the lumber market. Most sawyers therefore operate underground.
To satisfy a more and more important demand of the local and international markets, the hypos multiply the fellings. As a result, the original rainforest in Litimé has decreased dramatically. Studies have shown that in this area of Togo, rainforests species represent only 33% of the vegetation while species of dry woodlands and savannas (57 to 69.5%) become preponderant [25]. These works also show that the continuous degradation of the rainforest gradually leads to the savannah and to the scarcity of forest resources. Adjossou [5] argues that wood processing highly threatens the flora in Togo forest zone.


Losses generated by the SSE of woods in Litimé are very important. These losses are due to the methods and techniques used by sawyers. It should be noted that the lack of experience and lack of organization of the various actors of this sector notably the sawyers contribute mostly to the destruction of the forest zone of Togo. Hence the need to extend this study to other forest communities and plantations with a view to attract the attention of policy makers to make decisions at the national level for sustainable management of forest resources in Togo. The current situation therefore requires a strategy of safeguarding of forests by a low impact processing, a natural forest management enabling the renewal of the processed woods and the reconstitution of the forest, sensitization of the sawyers and hypos on the importance of forest biodiversity, its conservation for a sustainable management and the consequences of the disappearance of species in local and national flora.


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