COMPANIES in the tobacco industry have launched an association aimed curbing the deforestation which is being caused by growers of the crop in the country.
Tobacco farmers are said to be causing massive deforestation with over 20 percent of the country's forests already lost to the furnaces of tobacco curing.
"On deforestation I am happy to note that the tobacco companies have launched the sustainable Afforestation Association (SAA) with the aim of correcting the deforestation effects which are givable across nation," Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) Chairperson Monica Chinamasa told stakeholders at Tobacco Sales Floor on Wednesday.
Chinamasa said the initiative was necessitated by the fact that markets are becoming increasingly sensitive to non-sustainable means of tobacco production.
"I encourage all tobacco growers to embark on individual initiatives to establish woodlots regardless of whether or not they use firewood for curing their tobacco," Chinamasa said.
The tobacco sector continues to grow with large numbers of new farmers registering to grow the cash crop.
Chinamasa said presently more than 88,000 growers have registered compared to about 65,000 (farmers) at the same time last year. Out of the registered growers, 26,000 are new growers who have registered for the first time.
Of the 26,000 new growers more than a thousand are from Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces areas which were previously non-traditional areas.
Chinamasa said contractors supported more than 54 percent of the current registered growers and funded 72 percent of the total planted area 2013-2014 season.
Tobacco production has remarkably boosted the rural economy, providing jobs to hundreds of workers in a country which has an unemployment rate of over 80 percent.
Communal farmers have taken charge of tobacco farming in Zimbabwe and now constitute over 40 per cent of registered farmers last year.
Agriculture has always been a major part of Zimbabwe's diverse economy, along with mining, tourism and manufacturing. Tobacco was always one of Zimbabwe's largest exports accounting for a third of all foreign earnings, along with gold and other minerals.