Forestry Commission urged to consult stakeholders

By Nhau Mangirazi

KAROI– Forestry Commission has been challenged to work closely with all stakeholders as it steps up its efforts to encourage Zimbabweans to revive damaged forests due to unwarranted tree cutting nationally.

According to headman Benson Chanetsa, the onus is on Forestry Commission to be visible and remain relevant on matters of forests and how veld fires can be reduced at family and community level.

Speaking in Karoi during outreach by the 18 member environment, tourism and hospitality parliament portfolio committee here headman Chanetsa called on the commission to consult local leadership.

‘We want the Forestry Commission to work hand in glove with all stakeholders even traditional leaders from outlying and remote areas. They must be working in forests and with communities so that their work becomes easier burden for the nation,’ he said;

Headman Chanetsa was speaking after Kariba Proportional Representative Hon Christine Nyere had sought clarification on how best the Forest bill will ‘do justice to preserve forests and minimize veld fires’.

The parliament portfolio committee chairperson Hon Concilia Masuku-Chinanzvavana highlighted that the Forest Bill seeks to amend the Forest Act [Chapter 19:05].

‘The minister seeks to align the new law to be part of our reality. As parliament portfolio committee, we are here to get your inputs as law making process to enhance the protection of forests from veld fires through the introduction of mandatory and deterrent sentences as well as recognize aggravating consequences of veld fires, such as death and damage to property and make provision for their prosecution in terms of the Criminal Law (Codification,’ she said.

She also added that the bill seek to introduce a multi-sectorial and decentralized approach to fire management that includes local authorities, AREX officials, the transport sector, gender structure and traditional leaders, among others.

However, forestry commission provincial manager Lewis Radzire recently said they are working hard to rebrand nature by promoting tree planting at household, community and nation at large.

‘As Forestry Commission, we have been doing this since before independence and is part of our tradition to work with communities. As part of our commemorating national tree planting day in December last year, we gave every Member of Parliament (MP), Senators, traditional leaders a tree to plant. Engaging policymakers as well as traditional leaders make a difference as they will lead by example,’

According to Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB), at least 70 000 tobacco farmers were officially registered during last farming season within Mashonaland West province that has six districts namely Hurungwe, Kariba, Makonde, Sanyati, Kadoma and Zvimba.

‘Out of these registered tobacco farmers at least 15 percent more remain unregistered and out of the whole number, 70 percent of the farmers are from Hurungwe district which make it a productive district that account for overuse of trees in curing tobacco. Cutting down of trees by tobacco farmers is an elephant in the house. We can’t discourage farmers to abandon tobacco farming as it is source of livelihood.’ he added.

Mashonaland West resident minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka called on the schools and other stakeholders to take tree planting as a long term investment.

‘Tree planting has its value addition and we may have international markets of some of these fruits especially avocado that has ready market in Europe that may prop up foreign reserves for the country so that we earn the middle class economy class by 2030,’ she said recently.