By Tinashe Mungazi
Authorities have been urged to address rampant illegal poaching of firewood which has led to deforestation in Matabeleland North province.
There has been a notable increase in unsustainable harvesting of firewood in rural and peri urban areas in the province which has resulted in the mushrooming of illegal firewood traders who have commercialised the commodity.
Power cuts in urban areas have increased demand of firewood as an alternative source of energy with vending stalls now a common site along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway.
In a speech by the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Matebeleland North, Richard Moyo which was read by the Deputy director in his office, Tapera Mugoriya during the provincial Tree planting day held at Chief Nekatambe’s homestead in Dete on Saturday called on authorities to carry out post harvesting audits to curb rampant firewood poaching.
“Regardless of the importance of indigenous trees to the wellbeing of Zimbabwean communities, the trees suffered heavy destruction in some areas due to a number of factors. While firewood has traditionally been harvested for domestic use, it has increasingly become a commercial commodity in urban areas to complement other forms of energy. This has led to the unsustainable harvesting of trees in rural and peri urban areas and the mushrooming of illegal firewood vending stalls across the country’s towns and cities including along the highways.
“Some of the firewood traders are holders of legitimate licenses/permits issued by the Forestry Commission and Hwange Rural District Council. I want to challenge these two authorities and other environmental agents to conduct post harvesting audits covering the areas where the firewood is coming from before renewing or issuing new licenses/permits,” said Moyo.
He said the country was saddled with a high level of deforestation which stood at 262 000ha annually which was exacerbating climate change.
“We must ensure that we abide by the country’s environmental legislation and statutes if we are to address the levels of deforestation which nationally currently stands at about 262 000ha per annum. In times such as these when climate change induced challenges are real, it is our duty to as responsible citizens to plant and conserve trees as these form our first line of defense and safety nets against this natural problem. Tree planting is one of many responses to mitigate and adapt to climate change situations. “
Moyo said this year’s commemorations which featured the Baobab tree ran under the theme” Fruit trees for food security and nutrition” was part of efforts by government to promote food security.
Companies in Hwange were also urged to plant trees which play a very important role in regulating the localised microclimate associated with built up areas.
Last month a joint operation comprising of security organs, agencies, local authorities and other stakeholders carried out a blitz that was targeting among other things illegal firewood traders especially in Hwange and Lupane districts.
Stakeholders who included Forestry Commission, Painted Dog Conservation, safari operators, District Development Coordinator, Zimparks, traditional leaders, community and traditional leaders took turns to plant Baobab trees in and around chief Nekatambe’ s homestead.
The baobab/umkhomo tree which is abundant in Hwange district is used to make fruit pulp, immune boosters, relish, ropes, coffee, bags, paper, oils and amongst other things.
Mishingo Private Business Cooperative, a community-based self-help group has embarked on utilisation of the tree’s products through value addition projects.