No more firewood permits, Forestry Commission declares

…as 70 000 hectares of forests get destroyed

Moses Ziyambi

The Forestry Commission has suspended the issuance of firewood licences, citing the destruction of over 70 000 hectares of forests across the country EnviroPress can report.

With electricity getting scarcer and more expensive, more urban dwellers are turning to firewood as an alternative, much to the detriment of the country’s forests.

Much of the logging affects such important tree species as Mopani in the Lowveld as well as in such other semi-arid districts like Beitbridge where fewer other species do well.

Forestry Commission director general Abedinico Marufu said the pace at which forests were getting destroyed prompted the statutory body to suspend the issuance of firewood licences across the country.

He cited timber poachers whom he said were in the habit of indiscriminately cutting down indigenous trees which take up to 200 years to fully mature.

“The commission realised that if measures are not taken to stop the rampant cutting down of trees, there will be desertification in some areas.

“Individuals allocated farms under the Land Reform Programme are the major culprits as many of them are abusing the firewood permits.

“New farmers are cheating by claiming that they are cutting down trees to open up land for crop farming when in fact they are just harvesting timber and firewood for sale,” said Marufu.

EnviroPress reported recently how firewood merchants were facilitating the destruction of Mopani forests in Chiredzi to feed a charcoal market stretching to as far as Harare.

Marufu warned that the sale of firewood for commercial purposes was illegal, saying law enforcement agents were working to arrest all offenders.

“The Forestry Commission and other government departments have launched a nationwide blitz to arrest firewood and charcoal dealers.

“Zimbabwe has for long been able to preserve its forests and the new farmers should therefore not be allowed to turn the country into a desert just to make a quick buck.

“The consequences of desertification are too ghastly to contemplate. We therefore fully defend the suspension of firewood permits,” said Marufu.

The Forestry Commission is a parastatal under the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry. The Commission was created in 1954 through the Forest Act (Cap 19:05) from where it derives its mandate, as well as the Communal Land Forest, Produce Act (Cap 19:04).

The Forestry Commission is responsible for regulation, management and conservation of forest resources and managing gazetted indigenous forests which cover about 0.8% of the total surface area of the country.