‘Chiredzi farmers destroy wildlife, forests’

BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA

Chiredzi farmers, who were allocated land during the fast-track land reform programme, are reportedly wantonly cutting down trees to harvest firewood and charcoal for resale. The farmers are also indiscriminately killing wild animals, thereby endangering the ecosystem, an official has said.

Chiredzi district administrator Lovemore Chisema told Southern Eye that the district Joint Operation Command has called for an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss ways of curbing rampant deforestation.

“We have to convene an emergency meeting to map out a way to deal with the issue because the situation is getting out of hand. I would like to believe those selling firewood have a syndicate with transporters because the rate at which the forests are being destroyed is alarming,” Chisema said.

Chiredzi North legislator Roy Bhila, where the problem is said to be rampant, said people from other constituencies were poaching wood from his area after having destroyed forests in their own neighbourhoods.

“I urge the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to enforce the law and even conduct awareness campaigns. When I held rallies in ward 2 and 3 the issue of deforestation was topical,” Bhila said.

Ward 32 councillor in Chiredzi North, Aspect Mashingaidze, buttressed Bhila’s sentiments, saying stakeholders should address the issue of deforestation in Chiredzi North. He said the problem was more pronounced in wards 16, 17 and 32, while people from Checheche in Manicaland also continued poaching in Lavanga and Masapasi in ward 24.

“We have the political will, but we lack back-up from the relevant authorities, especially EMA and the Forestry Commission. Maybe they lack resources at district level, but they are doing nothing to call for backup from either provincial or national level.

“However, through engagement efforts with the community, I have been able to produce better results in ward 32, where the problem was rampant in villages 3 and 4 of Fair Ranch. The practice is slowly dying due to (assistance by) community,” Mashingaidze said.

EMA provincial manager Milton Muusha said conserving forests and wildlife was not a part of their mandate.

“The Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministry has three entities responsible for the environment. Zimparks is responsible for the wildlife resources of the country. Forestry Commission is responsible for the forestry resources of the country. EMA looks at pollution issues, land degradation issues, environmental planning and rehabilitation, among others. Surely, the issues you are raising have a whole department created to manage them. I can refer you to the Chiredzi district or Masvingo provincial forestry managers for a comment?”

The district has been dogged by wood poaching for years.

In 2014, the then Agriculture deputy minister Paddy Zhanda expressed shock at the destruction of trees in the district during a tour of the Save Valley Conservancy. Zhanda and his team came across 100 charcoal bags suspected to have been abandoned by wood poachers.

Recently, veld fires destroyed over 25 000 hectares of land in Save Valley, suspected to have been started by firewood and charcoal dealers from Checheche.

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