The lives of communities in the drier parts of Chimanimani have always been bound up with the baobab tree. The baobab is one of Africa’s most distinctive and useful trees because it can survive in dry conditions for as long as 500 years.
Professor Christopher Magadza, an environmentalist and researcher at the University of Zimbabwe, said that because communities were dependent on the baobab for their livelihoods, it was important for them to ensure that they harvested its fibre in a manner that didn’t harm it.
“Dicotyledonous, or plants that produce flowers, have two channels of materials that transport its nutrients,” said Magadza.
He said the upward material from the roots to the leaves travelled in the xylem fibres, while the products of photosynthesis travelled in the phloem fibres.
“When a tree is ring-barked, the phloem fibres in the bark are disconnected and any part of the tree that is at the distal end of the ring-barking is starved of carbohydrates and water,” said Magadza, adding that eventually this led to the roots dying. “The tree subsequently dies too, but the baobab is a very clever tree, probably adapted to being debarked by elephants.”
“The weavers can harvest the baobab bark sustainably, as long as the tree is not attacked by fungus diseases,” said Magadza.
Violet Makoto, Forestry Commission spokesperson, said although debarking reduced the lifespan of trees, it was a challenge to enforce controls when people depended on the practice for their livelihoods.
Makoto said people needed to be educated on how to best harvest the bark of trees so that trees were preserved for future generations.Post published in: Environment