Makoni forests under threat

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An ecological disaster is looming in Makoni District where new tobacco farmers are indiscriminately cutting down trees to cure their tobacco.

Over a 1 000 villagers in the district have descended on nearby forests to cut down trees for firewood to cure their crop.

Coal is best suited for the curing process but the villagers do not seem aware of this and have no money to buy the coal.

Odette Chidiriro, an officer with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) in Makoni District said the most affected areas were Bingaguru, Nyahawa-Bingaguru and Bamba.

There are about 400 new tobacco farmers in these areas.

Chidiriro said EMA officials had initially intended to penalise the villagers but realised the best solution was to make the villagers aware that their actions would lead to serious environmental problems.

Chidiriro said her organisation had moved in to address the problem and had set up an awareness committee to educate the new farmers about the dangers of deforestation.

“When we went there last month the situation was disastrous,” Chidiriro said.

The villagers had now embarked on a tree planting exercise following EMA’s intervention. About 8 500 gum trees have been planted since last month.

“Our concern is that the villagers are targeting indigenous trees which take time to grow,” she said.

According to some of the new tobacco farmers, up to three hectares of trees can be chopped down to cure one hectare of tobacco.

Chidiriro said the area would resemble Seke and Chihota where indigenous trees were wiped out if corrective measures were not put in place.

A committee involving the local traditional leadership, councillors and villagers has since been established to curb the rampant tree cutting.