The Forestry Commission says it is working with Government to resettle 50 000 illegal settlers that continue to threaten the viability of the timber industry
In an interview, Forestry Commission deputy general manager, Mr Abednigo Marufu said the two parties have already begun identifying alternative land for the settlers."Illegal settlers have become a major challenge in our sector. We are working with politicians and the Government in an effort to relocate the illegal settlers.
"There are 40 000 individuals that are residing in gazetted indigenous forests while an estimated 10 000 reside in privately owned estates. The settlers are a threat to the timber industry as they cause de-forestation, veld fires, poaching, and engage in illegal mining activities. They also cause siltation of rivers and destroy the natural habitats for animals, thereby compromising the tourism sector. At the end of the day, the quality and quantity of timber produced is low. We are working to speedily address this challenge as the number keeps growing every day," he said.
Mr Marufu said the industry is operating at 30 percent of its capacity due to a myriad of challenges that are bedevilling the sector, which including liquidity constraints.
Forest and woodland resources combined are estimated to cover approximately 45 percent of the total land area in Zimbabwe.
A total of 23 State gazetted forests covering approximately one million hectares is under the management of Forestry Commission.
Zimbabwe's plantation forest sector is run by a number of plantation owners, growing and managing exotic tree plantations, covering approximately 168 000 hectares. The plantations comprise of pines, eucalyptus and wattle.
Commercial entities and small growers privately own 60 percent of the plantations while 40 percent is publicly owned through Allied Timber Holdings.
In 2000, the sector employed 15 000 people, this has, however, drastically come down to just 4000 employees.
The sector contributes about 4 percent to gross domestic product.