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Tobacco farmers urged to avoid deforestation

by Kudakwashe Vhenge

By Lerato Ndlovu

Government has urged farmers to come up with ways of avoiding deforestation in Mashonaland West Province, following the threat of forest extinction posed by tobacco curing.

Agencies within the Province such as the Forestry Commission, Environmental Management Agency (EMA) have for years been taking strides in ensuring that Tobacco farmers especially in Hurungwe District protect the environment that they live.

This is because tobacco curing process requires a lot of firewood, which has a great impact on the forests. Tobacco farmers in the province opt for firewood instead of coal when curing tobacco.

Speaking during a provincial national tree planting season launch held at Kenedia Farm in Zvimba South , Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka who was represented by provincial development coordinator, Mr Josphat Jaji urged tobacco farmers to collaborate with Forestry Commission to help replenish forests.

“There is a need to increase awareness of sustainable forest management. While the government recognizes the obvious benefits of tobacco growing, I wish to take this opportunity to implore all those growing tobacco to ensure that they establish woodlots on their respective areas. The Forestry Commission through the use of the tobacco levy has established central nurseries and also contracted 12 farmers to raise 1. 3 million tree seedlings for afforestation this planting season.

“This is an opportunity for all tobacco farmers with available land to collaborate with the Forestry Commission and forge a formidable force towards the restoration of our once breath-taking flora,” she said.  

Due to tobacco’s importance to the country’s economy, in order to reduce deforestation the government for this planting season through The Forestry Commission has established nurseries and contracted farmers to raise 1.3 million tree seedlings for afforestation  and introduced the Tobacco Wood Energy Program (TWEP) which seeks to help replenish forests with trees.

Minister Mliswa-Chikoka also noted unprecedented peri-urban deforestation in towns as people cut down trees for firewood and urged developmental agencies, institutions and local authorities to develop and disseminate appropriate and affordable alternative energy sources in the affected areas and at the same time replenish the areas with trees and vegetation.  She outlined the harmful effects of veld fires that reduce the chances of restoration of forests and reduction of biodiversity.

The province’s Hurungwe district has been recording the highest fires in the country impacting not only on vegetation but climatic changes.

Attendees of the event took time to plant Adansonia digitate tree (Muuyu in Shona and Umkhomo in Ndebele) tree of this year to mark the launch.

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