Daily Dispatch

Zim wood supplies burning out too


Since timber was added to a list of commoditie­s running short in Zimbabwe’s crisis-hit economy late in 2018, carpenter Josh Mbuyazwe has struggled.

“I cannot get timber the way we used to.

“Suppliers tell us there is no timber – and I am hearing it for the first time that there can be a shortage of such things as wood,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at his workshop in the city of Bulawayo, where he makes furniture.

The situation has arisen as Zimbabwe’s forests are falling at a rate that has pushed authoritie­s to try to stem the trend. About 70% of the country’s population of 13 million live in rural areas where there is no electricit­y, with many still using wood to cook and cure tobacco.

Wisborn Malaya, secretaryg­eneral of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associatio­ns, said wood suppliers were battling to source enough timber as some forests had been invaded by people seeking land to build homes, while illegal settlers were burning down trees to clear land for farming.

Zimbabwe loses about 330,000 hectares of forests annually, according to Forestry Commission spokespers­on Violet Makoto.

Forest resources covered 45% of the country’s land area, down from 53% in 2014, she noted.

But halting deforestat­ion was a tall order, Harare-based Sustainabl­e Afforestat­ion Associatio­n director Andrew Mills said.

Mills said felling indigenous trees for tobacco-curing was a “significan­t factor” but not the biggest cause of deforestat­ion, accounting for about 15%.

Major factors were the use of wood for cooking, and clearing land for homes and farms.

In March, Forestry Commission general manager Abednigo Marufu told parliament unchecked deforestat­ion would see Zimbabwe importing timber by 2030.

Hundreds of small-scale farmers have turned to lucrative tobacco production, cutting down trees to cure the leaves in woodfired ovens.

Appeals by government and conservati­onists for tobacco farmers to plant wood lots on their land to protect wild forests have fallen short, as forest timber offers cheaper fuel and policing of its use remains weak, experts said.

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