EVERY year Zimbabwe is losing tree cover equivalent to three times the size of Harare, the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe (FCZ) has revealed.
While the majority of trees are being felled for domestic use, a sizeable chunk of that vegetation is being consumed by tobacco farmers whose numbers have phenomenally rose over the past few years as the golden leaf remains the country’s only commercially viable crop on the back of a poorly performing agricultural sector.“The national rate of deforestation currently stands at more than 300 000 hectares per annum, of which approximately 15 percent is attributable to tobacco production activities (that include) land clearing for tobacco farming and collection of firewood for tobacco curing,” said Darlington Duwa, FCZ general manager, at a tree planting day event in Madziwa, Mashonaland Central on Saturday.
Simplified, the 300 000ha is equivalent to 3 000 square kilometres or three times the size of Harare, which is estimated to be covering an area just over 1 000 square kilometres.
Given the gravity of the matter, the Minister for Environment, Water and Climate, Saviour Kasukuwere, expressed grave concern at the rate of deforestation and said this had actually prompted government to institute statutory instrument 116 of 2012 that compels all flue-cured tobacco farmers to establish fast growing tree species for their future energy needs.
“Forests have a paramount contribution to make as engines of future sustainable development,” Kasukuwere emphasised adding: “Establishment of these woodlots will reduce pressure on the country’s indigenous woodlands and give them time to regenerate and recover.”
This year the tree planting day, annually set for every first Saturday of December, was commemorated under the theme: Forests for water and life. -firstname.lastname@example.org