By Sydney Gokomere
Gweru, September 17, 2016 – TOBACCO merchants have put more than 8 000 hectares of land under eucalyptus plantations in a bid to fight deforestation caused by farmers when they use wood to cure the tobacco crop, a forestry commission spokesperson has said.
Violet Makoto said the tobacco wood energy programme was a success story as farmers contribute to the sustainability of their industry through afforestation.
Tobacco firms, through their Sustainable Afforestation Association (SAA), have established their own woodlots across the country where the
fast growing gum tree (eucalyptus) is put under plantation.
“With the rise in tobacco farming, there is danger that this industry can be the downfall of forestry resources,” Makoto told RadioVOP on the sidelines of the first draft national forestry policy meeting in the Midlands capital recently.
“But it is encouraging to note that our efforts got support from tobacco merchants who formed their own association (SAA) and have managed to establish woodlots across the country.”
Makoto said the tobacco wood energy programme is an ongoing initiative, which prepares farmers to set up their own woodlots.
She said the programme started as a pilot project in 2005 but in 2012 became mandatory through statutory instrument 116, for tobacco farmers to have woodlots.
In the next five years, tobacco firms expect to spend more than $30 million in afforestation programmes, with the money raised through a 0,5 percent levy on net annual tobacco earnings.
Experts say at least 9kg of fuel wood is needed to cure a kg of tobacco pitting a strain on forests.
According to the forestry commission small scale tobacco growers have been the major culprits in the industry destroying 49 000 ha of forests every year through illegal logging to cure their crop.