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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid