Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
Players in the timber industry have welcomed proposed interventions by Government to restore forestry resources through a reversal of haphazard resettlements in estates and conservancies.
Presenting the 2018 National Budget last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Government had realised that there were some illegal allocations of land within forestry estates, a move that had resulted in the unsustainable clearance of trees to pave way for agriculture.
“To this day, incidences of land allocations of subdivided forestry estates and conservancies continue to be witnessed. In some cases, this has been perpetuated illegally and in a manner that negatively affects conservation practices and objectives with respect to our forests and wildlife,” he said.
“It has been observed that in a number of cases, those resettled have quickly moved in to clear trees and substitute forestry and wildlife production with maize and other crops, often at sub-optimal productivity.
“Studies have already revealed a disturbing gap we now face in suitable wood raw materials a few years from now, due to disturbances that have been caused by unplanned resettlements over Forestry Estates across the country.”
Minister Chinamasa said Government would make sure that such actions came to a stop and where necessary, remove settlers in both forestry and conservancies. Timber Producers Federation (TPF) chief executive, Mr Darlington Duwa said in an interview that the timber industry was relieved by Government’s stance, which would help restore investor confidence in the sector.
“We are pleased as an industry by Government’s intervention on the illegal settlers who have taken over forestry plantations. In most cases, those people were illegal settlers who have caused more harm to forestry plantations in a short time than any company can restore,” he said.
Mr Duwa said invasion of forestry land had serious repercussions on the timber industry, as settlers were cutting down trees, as well as starting fires that destroyed vast tree plantations. He said timber companies could now expect to see their crop reach maturity and begin to realise profits that would trickle down into the economy.
“If they (illegal settlers) are removed, it will improve the supply of timber in the country and increase revenues. And investors who come in the sector would also be assured of raw material supply and a return on their investment,” he said.