The global theme for the International Year of Forests is "Forests for People".
Zimbabwe will commemorate this important year under the theme "Promoting Forests for People".
Trees are life and we need to take action now to conserve our trees and forests for future generations. In Zimbabwe, communities in all cities have become leading consumers of firewood as a result of the country wide power shortages.
Firewood constitutes 49 percent of the total energy used in Zimbabwe, with over 90 percent of households depending on wood for energy. Recent studies have shown that on average, a household in Zimbabwe uses approximately 7,7 cubic metres of wood per year for domestic purposes. People in rural and semi-rural areas depend on forests
for wood used for cooking, heating, building and carving, whilst commercial farms use wood for tobacco curing and often clear land of trees for farming.
Industry uses wood for a variety of products ranging from furniture to chemicals.
Not surprisingly, the Zimbabwe Forestry Commission says Zimbabwe is losing more than 330 000 hectares of forest each year. Although using trees cannot entirely be avoided, deforestation can be minimised through the sustainable use and management of forests.
Tree of the year
The sausage tree (Kigelia Africana), Mubveve in Shona and Umvebe in Ndebele, is a unique tropical riverine tree found in the eastern areas of South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The tree, which can grow to a height of 20m, derives its name from the enormous hanging fruit which resembles a sausage and can range in length from 30cm to 100cm, weighing between 5kg and 10kg. In early summer, it produces beautiful, deep maroon
bell-shaped flowers, rich in nectar that attract many birds and fruit bats – the most important pollinating agents. The fruit is not palatable for us to eat, however, it is widely used in herbal medicine and the ripe fruit is used in the fermentation of traditional beer. Sausage tree fruits are hung in African homes as the local people believe that they ward off whirlwinds and also make crops grow well.
Why do we need Forests?
Forests play an important role in the livelihoods and well being of people in both developed and developing countries. More than 1.6 billion people around the world depend, to varying degrees, on forests for their livelihoods, not just for food but also for fuel, for livestock grazing areas and for medicine.
By absorbing water and holding the soil in place, forests reduce the risk of floods and mudslides that result from natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
Forests protect watersheds which supply fresh water to rivers—critical sources of drinking water.
Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and cover 31% of total land area. More than 40% of the world’s oxygen is produced by rainforests.
With all the negative news we hear as a result of global warming, it is encouraging to see some of the positive statistics emerging as a result of global awareness and response of communities and governments around the world:
– The speed at which trees are being cut down worldwide is slowing from 8.3 million hectares a year in 1990-2000 to 5.2 million in the past decade.
– The ITTO, an intergovernmental body that promotes the sustainable use of forest resources, has revealed that the world's tropical forests that are under some form of sustainable management has increased 50% since 2005, from 69 million hectares to 183 million hectares.
– Brazil has reduced deforestation by two-thirds in five years by implementing measures such as better enforcing laws against illegal logging, supporting indigenous peoples' land rights and stopping land conversion to cattle pasture. They have also imposed a moratorium on deforestation for soy, a good example of how a country can reverse the negative impacts of deforestation through advocacy.
– The European Union and African states are implementing a huge project to build a ‘green wall’ of trees across the Sahara to push back desertification and secure agriculture and livelihoods in the Sahelo-Saharan zone.
– The Billion Tree Campaign launched by UNEP and the World Agroforestry Centre in 2006 planted more than 2 billion trees in 18 months, and has reset its goal to 7 billion.
This year’s National Tree Planting day on December 3 will be celebrated in Manicaland where many organisations, together with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, will be planting trees. Environment Africa has been part of tree planting for many years and has a programme called, For Every Child A Tree. We are encouraging people, families, organisations and schools to get children involved and plant a tree in their name.
Think Globally, Act Locally, Together we can make a Difference – www.environmentafrica.orgPost published in: Environment