By Nyasha Mukapiko
The Zimbabwean government will soon be implementing innovative ways for tobacco curing in a bid to reduce deforestation which is currently standing at 330,000 hectares annually.
Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made, during a question and answer session in the Senate recently, admitted that tobacco was having a major impact on the environment contributing to the siltation of dams due to continuous cutting down of trees.
Made was responding to a motion which had been moved by Caroline Tsitsi Mugabe, Senator for Zvimba constituency, who asked:
“We realise that tobacco is one of the crops that earn the much needed foreign currency. What measure is government taking in order for farmers to be able to harness renewable sources of energy that are not harmful to the environment?”
The minister said the Tobacco Research Board had been experimenting with rocket barn curing.
“It uses less energy or wood, particularly for the smallholder farmers. However, the cost of putting that infrastructure is what we must support the farmers with at the end of the day,” he said.
Of the 330,000 hectares of land being destroyed annually, 15% is attributed to tobacco farmers.
If the rocket barn curing method is implemented it is going to save 50% of firewood used in curing tobacco.
According to a pilot project carried out by the Tobacco Research Board’s Kutsaga Research Station in Harare three years ago, the rocket barn curing method proved to be more efficient.
Designed by Peter Scott and the Burn Design Lab, rocket barns curing has been widely used in countries such as Tanzania and Malawi for a number years.
Appearing before the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Matibiri, said they were ready to work with tobacco farmers in greening the environment.
Government last year resolved to set aside an afforestation fund which will be managed by the Ministry of Agriculture under TIMB. Matibiri said for the year 2015/16, Treasury allocated US$14.2 million towards the Afforestation Fund and US$7.9 million during the first quarter of this year.