Cracking down on ‘cut and run’ rosewood traders

Prized as a source of Chinese luxury redwood furniture, ‘rosewood’ is a generic term for several tree species that once grew throughout the tropics – before they were smuggled to near extinction.

So when scientists first noticed Pterocarpus tinctorius – known locally as mukula – vanishing from forests along the border of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they wasted no time in sounding the alarm, even before the full report was published in 2018. Once out, research results contributed to a series of very welcome outcomes, both nationally – with wide coverage by local media – and internationally.

In 2019, a Malawi-led proposal to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to have mukula listed in Appendix II, was unanimously approved by all CITES Parties. Towards the end of 2019, the United States Environmental Investigation Agency used CIFOR’s findings in their own call to action.

The road to save all Pterocarpus and other threatened genii and species is still long, but years of effort are paying some dividends. On the demand-side for instance, international pressure, detailed findings and engagement such as CIFOR’s, contributed to China revising its Forest Law, which now includes a prohibition on trading illegally sourced timber.

Positive change through trade

A new five-year project in nine countries aims to address how the global trade in commodities can deliver benefits to the environment, biodiversity and communities. Funded by the UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund and led by the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the Trade, Development and the Environment Hub (TRADE Hub) is studying the trade of agricultural commodities and wildlife species. In Indonesia, TRADE Hub focuses on palm oil, coffee and the trade in wildlife such as songbirds and snakeskin in high-risk landscapes in Aceh, Lampung, Central Kalimantan and West Papua. The Trade Hub includes everyone from economists to ecologists to large companies and NGOs, working together across supply chains to influence trade-related sustainability policy and practice.

The Trade Hub team at CIFOR is contributing to improved trade policy and practices, both in Indonesia and globally, by working with over 50 partner organizations from 15 different countries. Our aim is to help make sustainable trade a positive force in the world.

Michael Allen Brady

Team Leader, Value chains, finance and investments

Related links

Forests News

Project info


Africa-China Informal Resource Trade (ACIRT)



Funding partners

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), UK

Project partners

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

CIFOR focal point

Paolo Cerutti, CIFOR Senior Scientist


UKRI GCRF Trade, Development, and the Environment Hub (TRADE Hub)



Funding partners

UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund (UKRI GCRF)

CIFOR focal point

Michael Allen Brady

Forests in a
time of crises


In 2019, the world witnessed some of our greatest challenges shift gears from urgent to emergency – from climate crisis to landscape degradation to the wildfires that devastated ecosystems across several continents. But it also saw momentum build with the announcement of the UN Decade of Ecological Restoration, a focus on nature-based solutions, and the recognition of local forest communities and Indigenous Peoples are the best land managers for forest conservation.

Another exciting development – the merger of CIFOR and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) – set the stage for more evidence and solutions that will improve people’s lives, help to conserve and restore the ecosystems that support people and nature, and respond to the global climate crisis.

Our scientists advanced critical knowledge on forest landscape restoration, wild foods and timber legality in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and peatland fires, biofuel, oil palm and wetland ‘blue carbon’ in Indonesia – with clear policy impacts in Southeast Asia from 10 years of social forestry research and engagement. Our ongoing Global Comparative Studies – GCS REDD+ and GCS Tenure – continued to bring science to policy makers across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Gender researchers looked deep into a myriad of topics, and we mourned the loss of principal scientist and Nairobi hub leader Esther Mwangi, whose legacy of achievements in gender and land rights won’t be soon forgotten. Finally the Global Landscapes Forum brought even more people together, both at events from Accra to Luxembourg as well as through exciting new digital innovations.