A cocktail of power cuts, ad hoc deforestation and veld fires has seen the loss of 330 000 hectares of trees annually, while Forestry Commission sapling nurseries wither through lack of investment from the cash-strapped parastatal.
Philip Mataranyika, from Friends of the Environment, told The Zimbabwean this week that the current rate of deforestation could see the complete destruction of trees in just 52 years. The Friends plan to raise awareness of the importance of trees by walking from Harare to the Eastern Highlands on November 27 – December 2.
“Our situation is desperate. Factor in the debilitating power cuts and you have a cocktail for disaster,” said Mataranyika.
Since the land reform programme began, Zimbabwe has been losing trees at an accelerated pace as new farmers, particularly the 62,000 small-scale tobacco producers, use firewood as a source of energy. It takes 11kg of firewood to cure 1kg of tobacco and small-scale farmers are producing an average of 1,5 tons a year. Others cut wood for resale in light of frequent power cuts.
“A quick drive on our national highways will give you an indication of how far we have gone in using wood as an energy source. Creating nurseries in rural communities is vital if people in the rural areas are to replenish their energy sources, preserve the environment and restore our rural beauty,” added Mataranyika.
Alarmed at the trend of deforestation, some tobacco companies have started re-forestation nurseries. Farmers contracted to them are required to replace all the trees they use by planting saplings every year. However, only 12,000 tobacco farmers have signed up to the initiative.
Friends of the Environment intend to plant millions trees in the next 20 years to replenish the dwindling forests.
“I am happy to report that we received a resounding yes from Zimbabweans across the economic, cultural and social divide and now we are now at the implementation stage. It is a collective responsibility to get Zimbabwe green again,” he said.
With the Forestry Commission struggling to maintain existing forests and plant new ones, Mataranyika said the corporate world should adopt trees.
“Our plan is to get Corporate Zimbabwe to adopt all the nurseries, and I can tell you the buy in has been tremendous. We plan to create another 52 nurseries by 2015 to bring the total to a hundred. This will build capacity to 500 000 seedlings per year and ultimately 500 million trees should be planted by 2025,” he said.Post published in: News