By Delicious Mathuthu
More than 2 200 families in Gokwe South, Mapfungautsi area in the Midlands, are facing eviction after the Forestry Commission’s failure to regularize their illegal settlement in a forestland amid fears of massive deforestation and wildlife poaching.
Making a presentation in the Midlands recently, Forestry Commission Acting General Manager, Abednico Marufu, said the Commission is left with no option as it has failed to regularize the families’ stay in the area and have become a serious threat to the Mapfungautsi Forestry.
“We tried to regularize their stay but deforestation is worsening therefore enforcement of law is our next move. There are 2 286 households illegally settled in Mapfungautsi (Forestland) with approximately 10 370 hectares of the forest area affected.
“Mapfungautsi is a significant natural feature with strong influence on the water resources of Gokwe town and downstream areas protecting a catchment area of four major rivers namely Lupote, Ngondoma, Mbumbusi and Sengwa which drain to Lake Kariba,” Marufu said.
Deforestation is a worldwide phenomenon as human activities and nature conflict and the result heavily contributes to climate change and Zimbabwe is no exception.
Marufu says the families need to be relocated on farms that have been listed for downsizing.
“Given the current provisions of the Forest Act, it is not permissible for these people to be settled in the forest area. These settlers must be shifted and given alternative land in farms which are listed under the downsizing exercise,” he said.
It is scientifically proven that trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide that traps heat from the sun into the atmosphere fueling global warming and the earth’s air is now so thick with emissions that forests fight global warming just by breathing.
The Forestry Commission said the Mapfungautsi Forest was also home to several wildlife species before the settlements mushroomed but these have since been disappeared due to timber and animal poaching .
The Mapfungautsi Forestry is situated on a fragile deep Kalahari sand ridge which the Commission says it needs to protect to prevent siltation of water bodies in the catchment area.
Environmentalists further say that forests cover about 30% of the world’s land area and large patches of forests are lost every year due to deforestation and if the current rate of deforestation continues, there will be no more rainforests in 100 years.
With carbon dioxide stored in wood, leaves and soil, often for centuries but released back into the atmosphere when they die or get burnt, it is estimated that due to cutting and burning of forests every year, more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere worldwide.