Environment & Climate Change

Deforestation decimating Zimbabwe forests


Deforestation threatens to decimate the forests of Zimbabwe. The country’s forest and woodland resources are under increasing threat from the expansion of agriculture, urbanization and local use of construction and fuel wood.

Since most of the agriculturally marginal areas are well endowed with forests and trees outside forests, it is imperative to integrate agriculture with sustainable forest management and agroforestry to improve food security and food availability, particularly among the vulnerable communities living in these areas.

Forests have important multiple functions which are critical to the livelihoods of poor rural communities. These include fodder, shelter, medicines, timber and firewood for energy. 60 000 vulnerable households in selected districts within the provinces of Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Matebeleland South and Matebeleland North.

“These regions are characterized by low crop productivity, and are vulnerable to climatic shocks and adverse environmental conditions. They are areas where forest management and agroforestry initiatives have huge potential to increase and diversify sources of food and income for small scale farmers, thereby increasing their resilience to shocks’, said John Makumire of Forestry Commission.

The focus on participatory forest management ensure that all stakeholders play an active role. Participatory sustainable forest management of forest resources, reduction of conflicts and incidences of forest fires and enhance production of forest products and contributes to poverty reduction. The resulting increased benefits to communities will motivate them sustainably manage their forest resources.

“The main objective of sustainable forest management is to move away from the fences and fortress approach, which resulted in costly state control and management of forests towards more democratic approaches in which all stakeholders play an active role. Sustainable forest management is necessitated by the competing demands for forest products. These include commercial and subsistence demands like food, fuel, and trade, if these are not well managed, they may result in forest loss and degradation, loss of national wealth and loss of livelihoods for communities that are directly dependent on forestry resources”, said Makumire.

The Sustainable Afforestation Association (SAA)  main objective is to provide a sustainable source of timber for use in the tobacco industry in Zimbabwe, to investigate and implement strategies for the conservation and rejuvenation of existing indigenous and commercial forests. Recognizing the urgent need for supplementary fuel wood resources the Association has embarked on Joint Venture Partnerships with farmers within tobacco growing districts to establish commercial -scale eucalyptus plantations.

The Sustainable Forestry Management pilot project is addressing deforestation challenges emanating from tobacco  productions as they use wood energy for curing tobacco in communal areas like Hurungwe in Mashonaland West province in Zimbabwe, and the largest contributor to the country’s tobacco crop with 22 007 tobacco growers in 2014. The district lost 7000 hectares of forest and woodland to tobacco curing during the 2013-14 cropping season alone. Initiatives to minimize deforestation challenges through pilot sustainable forest management that include broadening livelihood options for communities depending on natural resources and promoting efficient tobacco curing technologies establishing community woodlots and woodland management plans and establishing partnership in efficient tobacco curing.

The rapid production and consumption of wood as a major renewable energy source in Zimbabwe has stimulated serious social -economic and environmental concerns and responsibilities. The profitability of wood as burning fuel, and as a useful industrial raw material has overtaken environmental reason and threatening ecology and fueling pollution, and destroying forest health and biodiversity.



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