CHIPINGE — Zimbabwe has lost more than 300 000 hectares of forests over the past five years through veld fires and massive deforestation largely for tobacco curing, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has said.
EMA spokesperson Steady Kangata told NewsDay during a media biodiversity tour in Chipinge last week adding that their other concern was the rapid extinction of many medicinal plant species.
He said tobacco farmers were the new major drivers of deforestation alongside uncontrolled veld fires especially among newly-resettled farmers.
“Over the past five years,300 000 hectares of forests have been lost throughout the country due to veld fires and increased tobacco curing by farmers and through bio-piracy. We need to reinforce our laws and awareness campaigns to bring some semblance of sanity in the protection of forests and woodlands,” Kangata said.
Independent assessments were that Manicaland has lost more than 15 000 hectares of forests through veld fires and uncontrolled harvesting of trees for firewood.
“We are pushing a Bill to promote sustainable forest use and conservation through an Access to Benefit-Sharing instrument into law through Parliament to curtail unsustainable forest practices,” he said.
Environment, Water and Climate ministry head of biodiversity programme Chipangura Chirara said several plant and animal species at Chirinda Forest in Chipinge were also under threat of extinction mainly due to veld fires.
“The Chirinda toad, for example, a rare species, is now endangered and is only found here and it is important to conserve it before it disappears,” Chirara said.
Chirara said Chirinda Forest was part of the world’s biodiversity hot spots, straddling the Afro-Montein belt from Yemen to Chimanimani region in the Eastern Highlands.