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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid