The country is losing 350 000 hectares of forest land annually because of the activities of various players in the economy, a Cabinet minister has said. This has prompted Government to take corrective measures. Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told Parliament recently that Government had since launched the Command Agro-forestry programme which seeks to plant 15 million trees.
"Coming to the issues of forestry that are under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Commission, the Food and Agricultural Organisation estimated that we are losing 350 000ha of forest land each year due to tobacco curing, wood poaching, land clearance, veldt fires and expansion of settlements. In order to reverse these losses, we launched a Command Agro-forestry programme which seeks to plant 15 million trees, mostly fruit trees nationwide per year," she said.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri told Parliament that Government was also making efforts to revive timber production.
"It is our endeavour to increase the hectarage under timber production whilst continuing to uphold the ban on hardwood timber exports enacted in 2002 under Statutory Instrument 112 of 2001 in order to protect our forests. I would like to encourage you all to raise awareness in your constituencies against deforestation and land degradation and to encourage most of our young people to add value to our timber so that we target the export market," she said.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said conservation and preservation practices should be at the helm of all programmes in communities.
"It is with this background that I call upon Parliament to partner with my ministry to build a green economy, green jobs; which protect the future of our children."
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri also spoke on stream bank cultivation which she said was now a challenge. She said a total of 1 872 rivers had been affected by stream bank cultivation while a cumulative stretch of 2 162km were also affected. The estimated areas affected by gully erosion in the country stands at 13 390,15ha.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said the main rivers affected include Inyazure, Nyamaguru, Mazowe, Mudzi, Nyadire, Tugwi, Gwayi, Murufudzi, Mukumbura and Manyame.
"My ministry has embarked on environmental protection through an afforestation programme to enhance vegetation density and diversity around dams and other water bodies," she said.