‘Firewood permits will not come back any time soon’

ECC Champion

With the country joining the rest of the world in celebrating the International Day of Forests yesterday, the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe has said it will keep its waiver on the issuance of new firewood permits, claiming the decision was favourable to sustainable management of forests.

Speaking to EnviroPress in a telephone interview, Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe Masvingo provincial acting manager Edwin Machokoto said that the measure was helping to conserve the country’s forestry resources.

He said strict requirements have been put in place for one to acquire firewood permits as well as improved enforcement of compliance.

“What we have observed in the past is that our forests were being wantonly destroyed in an unsustainable manner by both people with permits and poachers.

“So we have decided to relook at the whole process and realised that there were some loopholes which were being exploited resulting in the destruction of forests.

“Now, we have put in place mechanisms that will make the holder of a firewood permit comply with the provisions of the permit,” said Machokoto.

Under the new criteria, a new firewood permit can only be issued to a person who can provide details of a place where firewood will be accessed with the Forestry Commission doing inspections before issuing permits.

“We has a situation where people just acquired permits without providing a source from which they will be accessing the firewood.

“Under the new system, we will require one to show us the place where they will be accessing firewood and we go for an inspection to evaluate whether or not the place is viable.

“So once we tell people about the inspection, they run away,” said Machokoto.

He said firewood permits are mostly being requested by farm owners or people who have letters of consent from farm owners.

“Once we approve the location, we then issue the permit but now we are making a follow up to see whether the terms of the permit are being adhered to.

“A holder of a permit is not allowed to access firewood in any area outside his approved location for such a violation would invite serious fines and revocation of the permit,” said Machokoto.

He said they have since intensified operations to arrest all firewood poachers who are targeting mostly the Mopane tree whose charcoal is on demand on the market.

The National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) targets an increase in forest cover from 44.5 percent in 2020 to 47 percent by 2025.

“Forests contribute to the conservation of Zimbabwe’s rich biodiversity, concentrated mainly in designated parks and forest reserves, representing a major attraction to the tourism sub-sector,” read the NDS1 document.

This report was made possible through support from WAN-IFRA Media Freedom’s Strengthening African Media Programme: Climate Change and Environmental Reporting. Views expressed here do not belong to WAN-IFRA