7 July 2006

Zimbabwe: Resettled Farmers Harm Timber Industry

ZIMBABWE'S timber industry is under threat from resettled farmers causing fires in woodlands or illegally cutting down timber from plantations, the Timber Producers Federation (TPF) said this week.

TPF chairman, Joseph Kanyekanye, said the resettled farmers were illegally harvesting timber and destroying trees through fires in timber plantations when clearing land for farming activities, leading to the collapse of the industry.

Kanyekanye said last year alone, resettled farmers cost the nation above $1,5 trillion worth of Timber through illegal harvests or fires.

"An unprecedented 252 fires occurred and in the inflammable conditions rapidly spread through the plantations, damaging and destroying 10 000 hectares," said Kanyekanye in a statement.

"The fires destroyed timber with an estimated mature standing value of $1,5 trillion. The national forest resource was diminished by 10%," Kanyekanye said.

Kanyekanye said due to the fires, "resulting from arson attacks or land clearing activities by unauthorised settlers in the plantations...trees of all ages have been destroyed and consequently log shortages will occur for many years".

Added to that, the TPF chairman alleged that the new farmers were preventing foresters' from replanting in the fire-damaged areas.

Forestry Commission managing director, Darlington Duwa, said the new farmers had caused serious damage to their plantations resulting in the company posting financial losses.

"Illegal settlers have really affected our operations. We are trying to liaise with the government to speed up drafting a land policy document which I think will protect us," Duwa said.

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