Conrad Mwanawashe Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE is losing more than $600 million annually through the decimation of forests. A recent Food and Agriculture report says that Zimbabwe is losing 330 000 hectares of forests annually due to poor management, uncontrolled fires, over-exploitation and conversion to extensive agriculture.
“If we can calculate the value of the wood that is lost in the 330 000 hectares annually, we are losing hundreds of millions.
“We normally sell a cord of firewood at about $10 and in a hectare it is possible to get 2 000 cords.
“If we then multiply the 2 000 cords by the 330 000 hectares you will see that we are losing a lot of money,” Forestry Commission deputy general manager Mr Abedinigo Marufu said yesterday.
What is worrying to Government is that replacing those millions of dollars is difficult because trees take a long time to grow.
“For our indigenous trees it is usually around 100–150 years. Our teak in Matabeleland usually takes 250 years to mature. So that is the value we are losing every year.
“Not to mention other values like the ecosystem benefits, issues of climate change, the recreation people need and the tourism associated with forests. All that will be lost,” said Mr Marufu.
This has made the idea of a Forestry Policy, which aims at soliciting the participation of all interest groups in the country with the objective of reducing deforestation, an urgent need.
A National Forest Policy is expected to be in place by the third quarter of this year as the commission and its partners held their seventh and final stakeholder consultative meeting yesterday with tobacco industry players on the development of the policy.
Other stakeholder consultations were held in Matabeleland North and South, Masvingo, Midlands and Mutare among other centres.
“We are now going to sit as a group in a process of producing a zero draft which will go through a validation process at a national conference later this year.
“Representatives of all the interest groups will verify whether their views were properly captured in the draft,” said Mr Marufu.
“The first draft to be produced after the validation process will be sent to the Ministry of Water, Environment and Climate Change for discussion. A final draft is expected by the end of October this year,” he said.
The policy is a step towards aligning Zimbabwe’s forest legislation to the new and emerging issues and concepts on sustainable management of forests that are espoused in the three Rio environmental conventions.
This initiative is also in sync with provisions of the Sadc protocol on Forestry one of whose objectives is to promote the development, conservation, sustainable management and utilisation of all types of forests and trees.