News / Africa

Tobacco Farming Negatively Impacts Zimbabwe's Indigenous Forests

Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwe’s indigenous forests are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Thousands of new tobacco farmers say they have to use wood to cure their crop because they cannot afford coal mined in western Zimbabwe.

The forests were in relatively good shape, compared to some other countries in the region like Zambia, for example, where many forests were lost to charcoal production. But, in the last three years, Zimbabwe’s natural resource experts and the government estimate that more than 300,000 hectares of indigenous forests are now destroyed annually by new, mostly small-scale tobacco farmers, who use wood to cure the leaves.

Zimbabwe is the world’s third largest producer of tobacco - an export industry that is attracting many. Four years ago there were about 3,500 small-scale tobacco farmers. This season there are at least 47,000 of them.

Thomas Chitate, 35, began growing tobacco 200 km north of Harare five years ago on land seized since 2000 from white commercial farmers.

He says prices for his crop at the annual tobacco auctions this year varied enormously from a high of $4 per kg at the start of the selling season to a quarter that price weeks later for the same quality tobacco.

“At the moment there are quite a number of challenges that we are facing as tobacco farmers that can stop us from using coal and continue using firewood," said Chitate. "One of the major problems that we are facing is that the prices we are selling our tobacco at per kg is not that favorable for us to go and use coal.”

He also says using coal fired tobacco barns requires fans driven by electricity and Zimbabwe is chronically short of electrical power.

The government, tobacco companies and natural resources experts have reacted to the sudden decline in Zimbabwe’s indigenous forests.

Chitate and other new tobacco farmers say they are receiving free seeds of the Australian Eucalyptus, or gum trees as they are known in Zimbabwe, to plant to replace the forests they are chopping down.

“So what they do is advise you to mix the tobacco seed and gum seed in the same can, so you sow them at once, so they will be growing together, and when you transplant tobacco you are also transplanting gum tree plants,” he said.

Gum trees, agriculturalists say, need much more water than indigenous trees - like the Msasa- but are better than nothing. Chitate says he and many thousands of new farmers have learned much in the last few years.

“Farmers they are hardworking," he said. "When we started growing tobacco four to five years back we had no knowledge of how to grow the plant. But now we are even experts.

"I remember when I started growing tobacco I was being given seed by white commercial farmers because we couldn’t know how to produce seed," continued Chitate. "Now we can produce seeds on our own. We can even cure the leaves on our own. Our major worry is the price. If the price improves, we can use coal.”

Many of the large-scale tobacco producers who produce Zimbabwe’s famous top quality leaf are struggling financially and industry analysts predict Zimbabwe will soon be like Brazil where most tobacco is produced by small-scale or peasant farmers.

Zimbabwe’s Forestry Commission is now legally requiring all tobacco farmers to set aside land to woodlots in the hopes of reversing the damage to the country’s natural forests.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid