COMMISSION’S BLITZ TO SAVE ENVIRONMENT
By Edward Mukaro
The Forestry Commission Zimbabwe has embarked on a ‘Nationwide Operation to control illegal firewood/ charcoal acquisition, movement and trade’ to curtail the unlawful clearing of forests that is costing the nation 262 349 hectares per year, owing mainly to the national energy crisis.
More than 62 percent (%) of energy demand in Zimbabwe is supplied by trees and forests (this should be much higher now in view of the debilitating national energy crisis).
The blitz by the commission and stakeholders including the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Environment Management Agency (EMA), Rural District Councils and Urban Municipal Police, among others will see a spirited month-long blitz on firewood, charcoal and timber illegal activity hotspots across the country.
A number of arrests have already been made from villagers with scotch carts; pick up trucks and even haulage trucks transporting wood and charcoal to various parts of the country.
The production of cash crops like tobacco, which bring in large amounts of foreign currency has largely been one of the main reasons for the fast deterioration of the country’s forests, as farmers willingly cut down trees to cure their crop.
The Forestry Commission notes, “The apparent success of flue-cured tobacco production in Zimbabwe is attributable to indigenous trees and forests as most growers of the crop depend on illegally obtained firewood to cure it (the greater proportion of these growers obtains the firewood illegally and unsustainably, to the detriment of forests).
“Studies have shown that approximately 20% of the national deforestation is attributable to the tobacco growing value chain activities.”
Hence, the commission reckons that the major focus for Zimbabwe should be the need to close the gap between the rate of indigenous forest loss and its replacement rate.
Forestry Commission launched a nationwide blitz on firewood poachers who are mainly cutting down indigenous trees for timber and firewood.