Desertification in Zimbabwe: tobacco, logging and charcoal

Photo credit: IPS

Uncontrolled woodcutting in remote areas of Zimbabwe like Mwenezi district has left many treeless fields. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Zimbabwe’s Famed Forests Could Soon Be Desert

by Jeffrey Moyo

EXCERPT

“The rate at which deforestation is occurring here will convert Zimbabwe into an outright desert in just 35 years if pragmatic solutions are not proffered urgently” – Marylin Smith, independent conservationist based in Masvingo, Zimbabwe

There’s a buzz in Zimbabwe’s lush forests, home to many animal species, but it’s not bees, bugs or other wildlife. It’s the sound of a high-speed saw, slicing through the heart of these ancient stands to clear land for tobacco growing, to log wood for commercial export and to supply local area charcoal sellers.

Tobacco growers in Zimbabwe - http://www.aeret.eu/allomanyok/userfiles/news/2013/4-6/2013.06.11.jpg
Tobacco growers in Zimbabwe – http://www.aeret.eu/allomanyok/userfiles/news/2013/4-6/2013.06.11.jpg

According to the country’s Tobacco Industry Marketing Board, Zimbabwe currently has 88,167 tobacco growers, whom environmental activists say are the catalysts of looming desertification here.

Sheba Forest Estate Sawmill in Zimbabwe. Photo by Juha Kiuru/FAO - http://www.unido.org/typo3temp/pics/0cc826017b.jpg
Sheba Forest Estate Sawmill in Zimbabwe. Photo by Juha Kiuru/FAO – http://www.unido.org/typo3temp/pics/0cc826017b.jpg

“Curing tobacco using huge quantities of firewood and even increased domestic use of firewood in both rural and urban areas will leave Zimbabwe without forests and one has to imagine how the country would look like after the demise of the forests,” Thabilise Mlotshwa, an ecologist from Save the Environment Association, an environmental lobby group here, told IPS.

“But really, it is difficult to object to firewood use when this is the only energy source most rural people have despite the environment being the worst casualty,” Mlotshwa added.

Zimbabwe’s deforestation crisis is linked to several factors.

Read the full article: IPS

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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