Over 6 000 illegal settlers in Manicaland Province have been served with eviction letters as Government seeks to remove people who invaded timber plantations and have been causing significant destruction to the country's timber stock.
Over the past decades, almost 20 000 hectares of plantation timber have been occupied by settlers who have cleared land for agriculture, firewood while some have been engaging in illegal mining activities which has disrupted timber production.
Government has since embarked on an initiative to evict the illegal settlers across the country as part of efforts to restore the industry.
Presenting a report on land administration and management recently, Mr Tendai Chimunhu, an officer in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, said Government would have land to resettle the settlers once the land audit being carried out was complete.
"In Manicaland, we have 6 532 illegal settlers who were served with eviction notices. Of this number, only 47 have moved voluntarily so far," he said.
"The Ministry of Lands is seized with the process of identifying land for resettlement and this will be done once the land audit is complete. We are now conducting the second phase of the land audit in Makoni district and we hope to find land for these settlers who were given notices."
Forests, timber plantations included, play a major role in reducing greenhouse gases emissions that contribute to climate change.
As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Zimbabwe has committed to reducing these emissions by 33 percent by 2030.
According to a recent research commissioned by the Climate Change Management department in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), agriculture, mining, settlement expansion, forest fires, tobacco curing, timber extraction and firewood collection have been identified as some of the direct drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe therefore needs a rigorous forestation and reforestation drive if it is to reach its target of increasing forest cover to 46 percent from the current 36 percent by 2030.