Politics & General News

Firewood – a source of money ,but an environmental disaster

For many Zimbabweans firewood is easy money, but its environmental impact is leaving behind an environmental disaster.For most Zimbabweans who are now experiencing rolling power outages known as load shedding,firewood is the cheapest alternative energy source.But the increase in demand is significantly contributing to deforestation. Selling firewood in most cities and towns in Zimbabwe is earning most firewood selling ‘businesses ‘ a few dollars to buy food.At the moment,firewood is in great demand thanks to the load shedding afflicting the country as Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority has begun load shedding due to lack of water at the Kariba Hydro Electricity Power Station and technical hitches at the Hwange Thermal Power station,which together produce the country’s electricity. (Munyati and Harare Thermal Power stations have been incapacitated due to negligence and poor maintenance. Deforestation has been a problem for authorities especially in new resettlements with no electricity available. But the demand for cooking and heating alternatives has risen due to load shedding across the country. The price of liquefied petroleum gas used to fuel stoves is quite expensive for ordinary consumers. Fuel generators that use gasoline or diesel are expensive alternatives, so are renewable energy sources such as solar energy, which requires costly imported solar panels. That makes firewood the cheapest option for many Zimbabweans. “High demand for firewood is on the rise to the extent that we are selling firewood that is not dry to keep up.We are kept on our toes as we are busy cutting down trees and selling firewood to nearby Kwekwe,Kadoma and Gweru.Most of the firewood, we cut trees in and around Chemagora near Gokwe”,said Nokuthemba Ndlovu a firewood merchant in Redcliif. Deforestation affects ecosystems causing soil erosion that results in silt filling rivers and disrupting water systems. The Forest Commission administers the law around cutting down trees,which makes it an offense to cut,remove and collect any forest produce without authority and to move firewood without timber movement permit issued by the Commission. “To sell firewood, one needs to be registered with the Forestry Commission upon payment of a fee per annum.The Forestry Commission will monitor the species and source of firewood being sold. Depending on the amount of damage caused to the forests, a ticket is issued if a person is found in possession of firewood without a license, as well as a fine”,said a source from Forestry Commission in Gweru .Despite this this many people still cut and sell firewood without permit.Legal or not ,residents in most cities and towns are grateful for firewood merchants. And with so many people without formal employment selling firewood, prices are still low despite the high demand. “It is cheap for us as you get firewood for any amount you have,due to competition of people that sell firewood. Using gas stoves is out of our reach ,financially. Firewood is easily available and cheaper”,said Maud Chingore from Ivene suburb in Gweru ,forth largest city in Zimbabwe. In the meantime, most residents in cities and towns continue to trade in firewood despite the environmental disaster.

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