Zimbabwean forestry officials have raised alarms about the rate at which trees are being cut for tobacco curing, charcoal production and other purposes, reports The Herald. The country loses more than 262,000 hectares per year due to farming activities and fires, among other reasons.
“Within the next 10 years, we are likely to see a huge decrease in tobacco farming if alternatives are not found,” said Forestry Commission Director-General Abednigo Marufu. “We want to encourage chiefs to encourage sustainable tobacco farming.”
Because Zimbabwe’s native trees take many years to replenish, Marufu called on tobacco farmers to plant gum trees, which grow quickly and require little water.
“Farmers should embrace the species of gum trees that we have introduced in other parts of the country, except for Manicaland,” he said. “These have been under test since 1966, and they don’t require a lot of water.”
Marufu also urged growers to consider alternative energy sources, such as biogas.
The Forestry Commission encourages the use of trees that enrich the soil while lamenting the involvement of political figures in the illegal charcoal trade.
Every year, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development releases funds to the Forestry Commission for tree planting. The money is deducted from each farmer’s total sale of tobacco for the Afforestation Fund, which is taken through the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.
Nurseries of trees have been set up in provinces and have produced over 6.8 million trees that are availed to tobacco farmers for free.