Stakeholders raise alarm over deforestation

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BY CATHERINE MUCHIRI

ENVIRONMENTALISTS have raised concern over the rate of deforestation amid reports that the country is losing an average of 262 000 hectares of forests per year due to bad agricultural and mining practices.

Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe (FCZ) spokesperson Violet Makoto revealed the chilling statistics to NewsDay on Monday as the country commemorated International Forest Day.

“Agriculture and mining are the largest drivers of deforestation in Zimbabwe as trees are cut down every year for individual and commercial purposes. Zimbabwe is losing around 262 000 hectares per annum due to agricultural and mining practices. Urbanisation also forces tracts of forests to be cleared in order to create space to accommodate the expanding population,” Makoto said.

She said tobacco farming was contributing to depletion of forests, adding that the FCZ was undertaking programmes to encourage tobacco farmers to develop own plantations for use in curing tobacco.

In a statement, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said deforestation in the country was accelerating each year.

“There is need to strengthen policy and judicial frameworks by reviewing and updating outdated and weak laws so as to ensure long-term sustainable use and protection of trees. Implementation of these laws and regulations should also be strengthened to ensure forests are kept as a priority,” the UNDP statement read.

Harare City Council chief environmentalist Charles Mabika said the country had a total forest area of 386 850 square kilometres, but 37% was lost to deforestation.

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