3. TIMBER AND POLE PRODUCTION
Eritrea’s timber heritage was expropriated by the Italians. During the Italian colonial era, logging in Eritrea was intensively carried out. Up to 1947, 55 sawmills and small wood processing firms were established in the country. (Aldo, 1947, cited in MOA, 1994).
The major tree species exploited by the logging companies were Juniperus procera, Olea africana, Hyphaene thebaica, Balanites aegyptiaca, and Acacia albida/Faidherbia albida/. Sawlogs were transported by trucks and, in areas where access was difficult, cable was used (Ramanatan, 1978, cited in MOA, 1994).
At this time, except about four old sawmills, which are most of the time idle in Asmara, all other sawmills were either non-existent or closed due to a lack of sawlogs (personal observation).
A typical home in the highlands (the Hidmo) will take about one hundred poles to be constructed, a staggering number which is equivalent to felling of one hundred live trees. Currently in Eritrea, it can be said that there is virtually no timber trees left for construction, all timber is imported. It is estimated that around 60,000 cubic metres of sawn timber and semi-finished wood is imported annually. The landed value of timber is currently around $ 332 per cubic metre. (FAO 1997). Transmission poles and scaffolding are also imported. Matches are produced in Asmara from imported splints. Undoubtedly Eritrea has an expanding need for construction grade softwood timber, spurred by an expanding population and expectations of rapid development.