Tobacco companies embark on massive reforestation programme

TOBACCO Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) and tobacco merchants have established a Sustainable Afforestation Association (SAA) to spearhead reforestation across the country.

By Elias Mambo

The programme is meant to counter massive deforestation that is taking place as a result of the increased number of small scale tobacco farmers.

The merchants were expected to contribute an amount equivalent to 1,5% of total tobacco sales for the whole season.

In an interview on the sidelines of the Zvimba project tour last week, SAA chief executive officer Maggie Okore said her organisation embarked on a massive reforestation programme which would see 4000 hectares of new woodlots being planted by the end of the year.

“We have come up with a model in which we are engaging farmers with leases so that we plant woodlots and then leave the woodlot only after three harvests,” Okore said.

“Currently we have planted 250 hectares in Zvimba, 50 hectares in Kadoma and 252 hectares in Featherstone.

“We are a drop in an ocean but this small step will go a long way in assisting the national crisis because in five years’ time there will be no trees to talk about if the problem is not abated.”

SAA Mashonaland West regional manager Lloyd Mubaiwa said this year alone more than 88 000 small scale tobacco growers used unsustainable fuels to cure their tobacco.

“Imagine 88 000 small scale tobacco farmers cutting down trees to cure close to 110 000 hectares of tobacco that was planted this year,” Mubaiwa said.

“Very soon there will be no trees as the number of small scale tobacco growers continues to increase every year.”

In a joint venture with Rothwell Farm in Zvimba, SAA has planted over 1,5 million trees since February this year.

“We have a plantation with 1,5 million trees and we hope by year end we would have planted the remaining 250 hectares,” said Mubaiwa.

Mubaiwa said the trees would be harvested after seven years. But he was optimistic that the communities were now realising the importance of replacing trees.

“We are calling upon government to introduce serious measures that will ensure that small scale tobacco growers are awarded a certificate proving that they have used sustainable fuels to cure their tobacco before it can be auctioned,” said Mubaiwa.

According to Forestry Commission data released recently Zimbabwe is estimated to have lost 15% of its tree cover in the last 15 years due to deforestation with experts saying at the current rate of loss, the sobering thought is that the country risks turning into a desert in just 35 years.

2 Responses to Tobacco companies embark on massive reforestation programme

  1. Gutter Poet April 13, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    The guys at TIMB appear to have their hearts in the right place but lets see some real action. Plantng regenerative forests is one hell of a good way to start, well done. What we would however like to see is their hand in the economy..Lets see some barn design using coal as the main source of energy for curing of tobacco..hell, lets even see solar. If the TIMB insisted that they will not buy tobacco cured with firewood the deforestation would be arrested so fast even the guys can not wink faster. But for this to happen they have to master the supply chain of coal working to a perfect T. Along the chain transporters will make money, jobs will be created on this chain that had hitherto not existed before. Hwange will increase production increasing even more jobs. So the tobacco supply chain is one area where thousands of jobs can be created in the process. Dont we need these more than anything? TIMB could set up TIMB owned barns in the rural areas which can cater for small players…Come on guys, there is so muich you can do for the land,…just do it!

  2. stephen julius April 20, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    For the success of planting both exotic & indigenous trees,small scale farmers must also play a major role in planting trees especially gum trees .If a farmer buy’s tobacco seed @ TIMB or TRB outlets will be given free gum tree seed.It is now duty for Ministry of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation to introduce forestry on their appraisal not just to focus on crops and livestocks.if a farmer sow tobacco seedbed must sow gumtree bed and.each tobacco farmer must plant 300 gumtrees every year and in years wiil cover 1Ha only and he/she will start to harvest the first 3 planted generations.

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