By Watmore Makokoba
Remnants of indigenous forests in Zvimba community under Chief Chirau in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West province are under threat from wood poachers living in the neighboring western suburbs of Harare.
The area, encompassing Mount Hampden and Reinham, adjacent to Dzivarasekwa, Kuwadzana, Westgate, Snake Park and part of Norton, has fallen prey to urban residents felling trees for firewood to due to the energy deficit in urban areas.
This came to the fore during a community engagement event that was carried out by Environment Africa in partnership with Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, Environmental Management Agency, Zvimba Rural District Council and traditional leaders. The meeting was aimed at helping the community to come up with by laws to govern and control their environmental management.
Indigenous trees in the area are under threat through high demand for firewood for tobacco curing, brick moulding, garden construction and domestic cooking purposes.
During the event, villagers expressed dismay at the rate at which trees where disappearing warning that if this issue is not dealt with , the area is slowly turning into a desert as indigenous trees are cut down on a daily basis.
Shuvai Jena, who resides in Sunside in Ward 5, said it was worrisome that as efforts are being made to save the few remaining trees in the community through using alternative sources of power such as biogas, were proving to be in vain. She said more and more trees are being cut by wood poachers from Harare.
“It is unfair that as we are trying to preserve the few remaining trees in our community, some people have the guts to come here and take them down. It seems we are fighting a losing battle.
“We implore the Environmental Management Agency and other enforcement agents to intervene or this village is just another desert in the making,” said Shuvai.
Moses Tendaupenyu, Zvimba District Environmental Officer, said the situation should be treated as a matter of urgency as the effects of climate change were already visible in the area.
“Zvimba is one of the areas in the country affected by consecutive droughts, which is a sign that to the community, climate change is no longer a threat but a reality. We expect more preservation and planting of more trees and not this rate of deforestation.
“It should not be tolerated, anyone caught cutting down trees in this area will be prosecuted,” he said.
Munyaradzi Kaundikiza, the Programmes Officer for Environment Africa, applauded the villagers for speaking against wood poachers who have invaded the area. He encouraged them to maintain the spirit of ownership of their environment. Such ownership should be through effective implementation of by laws by the community once they are in place.
“It is highly commendable that the people of Zvimba are appreciating that the responsibility to manage and sustainably utilise natural resources lies within them and also very critical that such issues are incorporated into local environmental by laws so that that there is control,” said Kaundikiza.
Power outages that have perennially hit most towns have oftentimes come along with high demand for firewood in urban areas , resulting in heavy deforestation in both urban and peri-urban areas.
According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals , specifically Goal Number 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), and Goal Number 13 ( Climate Action) , it is unsustainable to continue relying on firewood as a source of power .
Instead and due to climate change, to shift towards alternative clean renewable energy sources such as solar, biogas and wind.