opinionBy Ruth Mwale
VEGETATION adds colour and scenic beauty to the country according to God's artistic design and endowments and also a place for one to relax while the calming effects heal and soothe the body and soul.
But in some parts of the country, trees are slowly but surely diminishing due to increased human activities for socio-economic development such as the clearing of land for agricultural, domestic and industrial purposes.
The indiscriminate cutting down of trees and vegetation, without any mechanisms in place to re-plant or replace them is referred to as deforestation.
The depletion of the country's vegetation has in the recent past been on the increase and a hidden contributing factors not only responsible for climate change effects, but also detrimental to strides for the country's economic prosperity.
It is disturbing to see large hectares of Zambia's forests land being rendered bare each year, due to the reckless cutting down of trees by unlicensed timber merchants and charcoal burners, a practice that if not stopped now, could have appalling effects on future generations.
People cut down substantial number of trees for charcoal production, herbal medicine, relish, shelter and fruit.
The consequences of the decline of humanity on forests due to conversion of forest land through human desires and actions denotes one of the huge forces in the ecological revolution and one of the major leads to extinction of biodiversity through extension of plants and animal species, and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.
One would ask questions on how deforestation contributes to the climate change, whose negative effects are being experienced not only in Zambia, but globally.
Deforestation is one of the major causes of enhanced green house effects. Trees and plants emit carbon (in form of carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.
Uncontrollable deforestation results into environmental degradation such as abnormal weather patterns and loss of water.
The rampant loss of forestry now starring in all provinces is without doubt a serious threat to the economic development.
Climate Change communication officer Matthews Kalabo said climate change is one of the major challenges which is being faced not only by Zambia but also the world at large.
He said one of the causes of climate change is deforestation which has contributed the different weather patterns, causing numerous drawbacks in many economic sectors.
He explained that natural disasters, such as tsunamis, whirl winds, flooding, and others, were an indication of the potential that climate change was currently affecting a cross-section of the global community.
"The natural disasters that have continued to hit most parts of the country due to global warming include droughts and floods, which continue to affect the socio-economic development of the country," Mr Kalabo said.
Human activities have also enhanced the global warming, proving to be amongst the worst effects of climate change, posing serious threats to the very existence of humanity.
According to Mr Kalabo, the Climate Management Limited, through the Lusaka Sustainable Energy Project works towards overcoming challenges of global warming by concentrating on solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the implementation of high quality cooking systems.
This is achieved through interventions such as the promotion of Save 80 biomass stoves and heat retaining container (wonder box).
This technology is durable, affordable and safe to use and is designed for vulnerable households within the project boundary with an aim of expansion countrywide.
"The use of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to transfer highly efficient, durable and clean technology delivers a wide range of benefits to the local community whilst improving living conditions," hesaid.
Mr Kalabo said through this project, deforestation can be reversed and income streams shifted from the present production of charcoal towards sustainable forest development.
"Zambia suffers deforestation, which to some extent caused by the production and consumption of charcoal. Every year, more than 250,000 hectares of the forest is disappearing," he said.
He urged the Government to stiffen the Forestry Policy, to ensure its implementation in working towards reducing the emissions of gases, as well as the discriminate depletion of trees and vegetation.
The negative effects of climate change, has not spared the country's major economic sectors such as agriculture.
Its effects on this sector are ranked in two fold, name; the primary and secondary categories.
The primary impact is that, which has a potential of directly invoking the actual change in the climate, while secondary impact is that which arises as a consequence of primary impacts.
As serious as issues relating to climate change may be, it is regrettable that a lot of people are still in the dark about the matter.
Eviny Sazyiu, a farmer in Lusaka's Kasisi area, admitted to not having heard of the negative effects that climate change had, except for the minor weather changes particularly the rain patterns, which she described in her own words, as unprecedented.
She explains that it was now very difficult for small-scale famers like herself to determine the right time to begin planting, crops, due to the changes in the rain patterns, which sometimes begin as late as November or December, and in extreme cases January.
"In the recent years the rains have been very unpredictable and for us who plant maize as our staple food. I have found it difficult to know what seed to plant whether late maturing or early maturing," she said.
She said the weather patterns have affected her in the agriculture industry because the rains either came later than the expected time, and the time the rains comes, it is usually uncontrollable.
In the process the farmers might lose out on their crops.
However, from her little understanding of the effects of climate change, Ms Sazyiu was able to explain that she understood the fact that rampant tree cutting could lead to deforestation a potential to desertification.
"Many people do not understand how trees or forests play a vital role in the climate change and more sensitisation needs to be carried out so that people are able to know what the cause of the global warming is,"she said.
The other sector suffering from the process of deforestation is the tourism industry which is one of the major sources the country's foreign exchange earnings.
Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Catherine Namugala recently said dealing with climate change was one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which the country was working towards achieving by 2015.
"Human health has been adversely affected by climate change as well as agriculture, food security, wildlife, forestry, water and the energy sectors," Ms Namugala said.
She stressed the urgent need to employ measure aimed at protecting forests, which form a base for the tourism industry, adding that the development of the country's tourism sector was heavily dependant on how effectively it responded to the challenge at local, national and international level.
Trees and forestry in general are pivotal in poverty reduction efforts which are vital for consolidating eco-tourism which has been identified as a growing source of energy for the tourism sector."Tourism is mainly based on wildlife and natural resources sites of which the forest is a major part that can contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction," she said.
Though this has not been the case in the recent past, resources in the country are in danger of being degraded and depleted mainly due to human activities that could lead to desertification.
She said Africa stands to be the most affected continent by climate change because it has the least capacity to fight the effects which would lead to devastating consequences such as floods and droughts.
She noted that Zambia's forests were regenerating at a slower pace due to droughts and high temperature, but at the same time being threatened by bush fires and environmental degradation.
While it remains critical to protect the country's natural resources such as forestry, the responsibility of ensuring that the negative effects of climate change are reduced calls for concerted efforts.
It is imperative that public knowledge and understanding of issues surrounding climate change and forestation are increased to ensure sustainability of the industry.