By Kenias Chivuzhe
DEFORESTATION is getting out of hand in Manicaland Province in the wake of revelations that vegetation cover has declined by close to 10 percent over the last two decades.
The alarming rate of deforestation has resulted in Environmentalists calling for urgent intervention to prevent the decimation of forests that has seen vegetation cover in Manicaland being reduced by eight percent in the last 14 years.
Environmentalists have since called for stiffer penalties for those found on the wrong side of the law as demand for firewood has increased during the winter season.
“We are very concerned on the level of cutting down of trees during this winter season. Most people are in the business of selling fire wood thereby increasing deforestation. Those selling firewood should be given permits to control the cutting down of trees.
“We urge government to intervene as a matter of urgency. Long back the issue of cutting down of trees was a rural challenge but the situation has changed with urban areas being the most affected. Those producing farm bricks are destroying our forests. There is need to enforce the law to protect our forests,” said an Environmentalist, Never Bonde.
The challenging situation is a thorn in the flesh for government with Provincial Forest Extension Manager-Manicaland, Mr Phillip Tom, saying urban areas and growth points have become deforestation hotspots.
“The challenge of deforestation in Manicaland remains an issue of concern especially this winter season as most people use fire wood. The towns that include Mutare, Rusape and Chipinge and all the growth points in the province continue to be heavily affected hence we urge the people to protect our forests.
“Our vegetation cover is between 42 to 48 percent meaning our rate of cutting down of trees is more than planting. This is from around 50 percent in 2008,” said Phillip Tom; Forestry Commission Manicaland Provincial Forest Extension Manager.
In order to control deforestation in tobacco farming areas, farmers are being encouraged to seek guidance from the Forestry Commission on setting up their own tree plantations.
“We urge people to plant trees. At the moment, we are giving tobacco farmers trees to plant for free. We have a number of nurseries in Makoni, Nyamasinga, Nyamajura, Murambinda and Watsomba. These areas have been affected by deforestation. Farmers should utilise the window for them to plant trees to cure their tobacco,” he added.
Statistics indicate that Zimbabwe is at the top of the pile in Southern Africa regarding deforestation, hence the need for consented efforts to find a lasting solution.