Rampant harvesting of wood

By Sharon Chimenya


FUELWOOD harvesting and charcoal production are rife in Masvingo Province, with people
conducting brisk business from the sale of firewood and charcoal at the expense of forestry
For wood hunters, prolonged power cuts, the rise in the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority
(ZESA) tariffs and LPG, mean more money as an increasing number of residents have resorted to
the use of firewood and charcoal.
As early as 6am in one of Masvingo's high-density suburbs, one wakes up to the clamours of
women and children’s voices, selling their last bundles of firewood so that they can quickly go
back home and prepare for school and other household chores.
Many value the need to get wood for cooking or heating rather than to take part in tree-planting
activities organised by the Government and other players.
Other than the first Saturday every December, the Forestry Commission has been taking part at
clean-up campaigns urging people to play their part in planting trees.
Unsustainable wood harvesting for fuel has been cited as one of the major drivers of land
degradation in the country as it fuels massive cutting down of trees. The most popular tree that is
sold on the roadsides in Masvingo's ports of entry is the Mopane tree, which has been classified
by the Government as one of the species that needs sustainable management.
The country is grappling with 36 percent of land that has been classified as degraded and
urgently in need of rehabilitation. Land degradation exhibits itself across most parts of the
country through reduced land cover, rampant deforestation, excessive soil erosion, reduced land
productivity and biodiversity loss.
Masvingo Environmental Management Agency provincial manager, Milton Muusha, said that
Chiredzi District was heavily affected by unsustainable wood harvesting as many of the
merchants were getting big returns from charcoal sales.
“Unsustainable wood harvesting is a thing that we have seen on most of our highways. In
Masvingo, we are talking about, if you are going to Harare around the Chatsworth area, you find
this; if you are going to Chiredzi between Zaka and Chiredzi you find a lot of this.
“If you are going to Mutare, at Dewure Ranch you will find this. What makes it worse, is that
you find in Chiredzi, of late, we have charcoal burning becoming a very big problem, where they
burn big stretches of firewood to make charcoal which is big business in most of our urban

With the country angling to become an upper middle income economy by 2030, the Ministry of
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry is set to implement an accelerated land
restoration programme to enhance economic resilience, food security, biodiversity replenishment
and increasing land cover thus mitigating against climate change and creating green jobs.
The National Developments Strategy 1 (NDS1) blueprint highlights the importance of a well-
managed environment in which productive sectors of the country such as mining, energy,
manufacturing, agriculture and tourism rely heavily on the environment for inputs to the
production of goods and services.
“The increase in demand of environmental goods and services and the lack of sustainable
alternatives has resulted in a number of daunting environmental challenges. The rate of natural
resources depletion and environmental degradation is affecting environmental sustainability
which further impoverishes the vulnerable groups.
“There has been a worrying reduction in both the quantity and quality of natural resources
emanating from increased pollution, land degradation, deforestation, over exploitation, land use
changes, siltation of rivers and water bodies as well as climate change. This reduction in quality
and quantity of natural resources has a negative bearing on the country’s socio-economic
development and other sectors, especially tourism which depends heavily on these resources.
“The forestry and wildlife sectors, which include fisheries, have also been affected by the
declining quantity and quality of environmental resources. Timber plantations and most wildlife
areas have been negatively affected by illegal activities, over exploitation, veld fires, land use
changes and poaching,” reads part of the blueprint.
The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mangaliso Ndlovu,
during a meeting of the Global Environment Facility 7 inception workshop last month said the
Covid-19 period saw an increase in dependency on natural resources for survival.
“The Covid-19 pandemic stalled much of this effort as the country was on lockdown affecting
every sector of the economy and society. The period saw an increase in over dependency on
natural resources for survival as traditional means of income were either eroded or completely
shut down.”
The impact, he said, still need to be studied as estimates indicate that deforestation increased
during this period as people searched for alternative sources of income and energy.

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