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Increased Farm Brick Production Threatening Forests

by Bustop TV News

By Lemuel Chekai

A surge in production of farm bricks is fast becoming a key driver of deforestation in Zimbabwe.

In Harare, temporary structures synonymous with developing settlements like Hopely and Epworth suburbs have seen residents flocking for cheap building materials like farm bricks thereby increasing demand for the commodity.

Informal brick-molders who spoke to this publication confirmed a ‘rush’ for farm bricks among developing settlements further pointing out a growing market in already established settlements.

“Our clientele focus is on these developing communities like Hopely, Southlea Park and Southlands, farm bricks are ideal for their slum structures. However, we often record some sales from people in Waterfalls (Harare’s middle-density suburb). They usually use our bricks for their security walls and drinking water well walling,” said Thomas Musandu, a farm bricks manufacturer.

A house in Hopley constructed with farm bricks

While common industrial red and prime bricks popularly used in urban structuring are selling at US$100/1,000 bricks and US$75/1,000 bricks respectively, Musandu indicated that farm bricks can go for as little as US$20/1,000 bricks.

“Ideally our prices should range between US$30 and US$35/1000 bricks, however, depending on how desperate I am for the money, they can go at US$20/1000 bricks,” he said.

But, fitting to one’s budget, farm bricks may prove, they come at a high cost of environmental degradation and deforestation. As huge pits are excavated for clay soil required to mould the bricks, substantial amounts of trees are cut down for firewood needed in their drying process.

Together with tobacco curing and the demand for firewood in urban areas, reports by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) now deem farm brick production as one of three major drivers of deforestation in Zimbabwe.

EMA’s Environmental Education and Publicity Manager, Amkela Sidange told this publication that small towns have become the chief culprits of this environmentally hazardous practice.

“Small towns still going through urbanization have become prime territories of farm brick production. Failure by local authorities in such towns to articulate the ban of farm brick use as building material in their by-laws has enabled high demand of the commodity as the areas develop and expand.

“So in line with the Environmental Management Act, we are constantly directing local authorities to articulate in their by-laws a halt in the use of farm bricks on both temporary and permanent structures,” said Sidange.

To this end, just last year in July, EMA descended on the city of Mutare, Zimbabwe’s fourth largest city, directing its local authority to ban the use of farm bricks on construction of commercial, industrial and residential structures.

However, testimonies from brick layers who spoke to this publication suggest that successful suppression of farm brick demand will not only be accomplished on paper. Rife corruption has seen city council inspectors passing farm-brick erected buildings.

“I wouldn’t recommend the use of farm bricks to my clients because the structure will develop cracks in no time. But if they insist, we will look for farm bricks that were well burnt. The client can always bribe the council inspector to pass the structure,” said Gerald Mutumanje, a bricklayer.

While backfilling can recover farm brick production effect on land, it is the tree population that is affected most by this practice.

Unlike tobacco curing which is seasonal, only presenting devastation on tree population once every year when the leaf is ripe, farm brick production has an all year rounding effect.

Trees are key in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Large amounts of carbon accumulating in the atmosphere are causing global warming, the mother of climate change.

‘This article was produced with the financial support of WAN-IFRA Media Freedom. Its contents are the sole responsibility of <Lemuel Chekai/BustopTV> and do not necessarily reflect the views of the WAN-IFRA Media Freedom,WAN-IFRA FR, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.’

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