The hunt for the precious wood

Emmanuel K. Bunei (Department of Sociology and Psychology, Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya)

Society and Business Review

ISSN: 1746-5680

Publication date: 13 February 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore the complex underpinnings and dynamics of increasing trend of illegal trading of high-value forest tress such as sandalwood in rural parts of Kenya, which has moved from highly opportunistic and culturally accepted activities to highly complex, commercial, criminal and entrepreneurial activity. The paper focuses on two theoretical frameworks: the first concerns with criminological concepts which underlie illegal logging, perpetrators and criminal network of smuggling of sandalwood from Kenya to overseas; the second focuses on the entrepreneurial process of the illegal trade of the endangered species. The central aim is to establish a confluence of criminology (rural and environmental) and entrepreneurship – the product of which can be useful in understanding emerging and highly sophisticated international crimes such smuggling and trafficking of sandalwood tree product. It proposes that sandalwood poaching just like other transnational crimes such as wildlife poaching is a highly organized international crime that involves more than one individual. The paper concludes by suggesting that sandalwood poaching is an entrepreneurial activity that impinges on criminological process, and to fully address the problem, we must address the supply and demand forces and the normative and social structure of source area.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses a systematic review and immersion in literature from journals, books, government and non-governmental organization publications to raise debates and discourses on issues pertaining to the phenomena of sandalwood poaching in Kenya. It also entailed sieving through court judgments, newspaper articles and TV news to backup above information.

Findings

First, what has emanated from this study is that criminal cartels have directed their criminal business of sandalwood poaching to Kenya because force of demand and supply of precious wood, institution failures and regulatory and policy failures. Second, sandalwood poaching is ostensibly organized international enterprise crime that relies on division of labor to succeed. Third, more restrictive controls act as incentives to criminals to smuggle the wood. Finally, the more endangered the sandalwood, the more valuable and profitable it is and the more the poor countries and rural areas suffer from environmental degradation.

Research limitations/implications

Methodologically, one of the major limitations of this paper is that it is based on documentary analysis, because of a lack of research time and available finances. Prospective studies should consider utilizing in-depth interviews to gather evidence from offenders, police, rural residents and other government officials.

Practical implications

The paper contributes to growing fields of entrepreneurial, environmental and rural criminology. Methodologically, certain crimes such sandalwood poaching requires an intertwine of concepts of criminological and entrepreneurship for better understanding.

Social implications

To environmentalist, foresters, jurist, law enforcers and rural local residents; there is an urgent need to rethink how poaching of valuable endangered biodiversity species is treated, responded and promoted. To end poaching of sandalwood, there is a need to fundamentally realign tactics from criminalization and enforcement to address endemic cancer of poverty, unemployment and corruption present at source countries. This will indeed reduce economic vulnerabilities that cartels take advantage by engaging the locals in extracting sandalwood from trees. It will also reduce the power of networks but instead increase guardianship measures.

Originality/value

The originality of paper is the utilization of two theoretical frameworks: the first concerns with criminological concepts which underlie illegal logging, perpetrators and criminal network of smuggling of sandalwood from Kenya to overseas; and, second, the paper focuses on the entrepreneurial process of the illegal trade of the endangered species. The central aim is to establish a confluence of criminology (rural and environmental) and entrepreneurship – the product of which can be useful in understanding emerging and highly sophisticated international crimes such smuggling and trafficking of sandalwood tree product.

Keywords

Citation

Bunei, E. (2017), "The hunt for the precious wood", Society and Business Review, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 63-76. https://doi.org/10.1108/SBR-04-2016-0025

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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