Baobab trees under threat

Zimbabwe`s distinctive baobab tree is under threat from deforestation in Manicaland as poverty has forced villagers to de-bark the trees as a means of survival.

Baobab trees under threat from poor villagers in need of income to raise their families.
Baobab trees under threat from poor villagers in need of income to raise their families.

“We have no choice but to de-bark the baobab trees to fend for our families. We have seen these trees growing for years but we said we should take advantage of our natural resources to eke a living because there are no jobs for us. Our children need proper education and food,” said Maxwell Nyashanu (26).

He earns around $250 a month from selling the mats to tourists. Nyashanu said he was aware that he was causing environmental degradation as most trees he had de-barked were dying of infection and loss of water.

“These trees take a lot of years to grow but we have no choice but to make a living. It’s sad that future generations will not have an opportunity to see them,” he said. A local environmental watchdog, Friends of the Environment, wants baobab tress to be registered as an endangered species.

“Preliminary research shows the baobab is under extreme pressure from unemployed and poor villagers,” said Peter Nelson, head of FOTE in Manicaland.

“Government through its environment management agencies must craft policies to save the trees as well as people`s lives. They should strike a balance,” he said.

According to statistics released by FOTE, 67 percent of the existing baobab trees would face extinction in the next 10 years if no proper framework and regulation regarding its harvesting was not put in place.

“What villagers are doing is illegal because under our tradition all the natural resources falls under the jurisdiction of a chief. Villagers should seek permission and authorisation. We are very worried with the rate these trees are being destroyed,” said a headman from Chimanimani.

“Villagers should first apply for a harvest permit which costs $10 for a seven day period. Thereafter, they will receive permits and they should follow instruction of harvesting the trees,” said a Forestry Commission official.

Post published in: Environment

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