The Environmental Management Agency yesterday confiscated more than 300 tonnes of firewood from vendors in Mbare.
The swoop was a joint operation between EMA, the Zimbabwe Prison Services and Zimbabwe Republic Police.
When The Herald visited the area popularly known as "Pamuzinda wehuni" more than 20 riot police officers were milling around with prisoners loading the firewood onto four ZPS trucks.
EMA principal officer in the impact assessment and ecosystems department Mr Christopher Mushava said EMA targeted the areas after realising that indigenous trees were depleting at a fast rate due to indiscriminate cutting down for firewood.
"The operation came after a countrywide report produced by the Forestry Commission revealing that forest cover has been reduced by 13, 57 percent. Desertification is occurring especially in areas surrounding Harare such as Seke and Marondera.
"We are going to take the operation to other parts of the country to protect mostly indigenous trees. These trees take between 130 and 200 years to grow and we have to ensure the tendency of indiscriminate cutting down of trees comes to an end."
He said EMA had realised that the fines paid by offenders were not enough deterrent.
"The operation will also target those who sell firewood on roadsides and we are very thankful to the ZPS and ZRP for their support," Mr Mushava said.
Mr Mushava urged traditional leaders to assist in curbing deforestation.
"We will continue monitoring and setting up mechanisms to ensure that these activities do not resurface. The firewood is coming from areas with leadership that can assist. Control should start from the source as well.
"It is not fair to cut a 200-year-old tree merely for US$5 and it shows perpetrators are ignoring the value of trees. There will be erosion and siltation of rivers which is impacting negatively on agriculture and food security," Mr Mushava said.
Pamuzinda co-operative chairman Mr Tendai Manyasha said their permit had expired and were buying the firewood from newly resettled farmers.
"We collect the firewood from those clearing their farms and previously we used to have a permit to sell the firewood which has since expired. We exchange with fertilizers of between six and seven bags for a seven tonne lorry but that differs with the distance.
"We cannot think of a way forward and our co-operative had between 20 and 30 people who were relying on the business for the past 10 years. We once tried to renew our permits but the process was taking longer than we expected."
He said some of their workers used to be vagrants who had since found gainful employment at the centre.