Nqobile Bhebhe : Zimbabwe
Errant farmers in resettlement areas in Zimbabwe risk losing their allocated land as Government is battling to push for productivity.
In a statement on Wednesday, 25 April, Lands and Agriculture and Rural Settlement Minister Perrance Shiri expressed concern on farmers who are violating policy guidelines.
Tobacco farmers where singled out in the statement as ‘problem farmers’ for “wanton cutting down of trees“.
“Flue cured tobacco farmers are encouraged to use coal and not cut down trees as they are currently doing. The country will turn into a desert in no time at all should this practice be allowed to continue“ said Shiri.
Years of deforestation by tobacco farmers seeking wood for their barns have taken a serious toll on the country’s indigenous forests.
The situation continues to get worse as few new trees are being grown where the old are being cut down by an increasing number of farmers turning to tobacco farming.
According to the Forestry Commission, every year the country is losing more than 300 000 hectares of forests to deforestation.
At least 15 percent of the destruction is attributable to tobacco farmers.
Previously, tobacco farmers would mainly cure their crop using coal, but wood has become the cheapest and readily available fuel for the army of farmers who have migrated to tobacco.
Under these circumstances, finding a lasting solution to the increasing deforestation is near impossible hence a warning by Shiri.
“Farmers who continue to be a problem risk having their offer letters withdrawn so as to enable production to continue with unnecessary interruptions from them.
“We encourage farmers to report to our extension staff and to the police such problem farmers,”.
However, tobacco farmers have repeatedly said they have very little choice but to rely on the indigenous forest for fuel wood.
In the same statement, Shiri said while the Government is noticing some improvement in the resettlement areas, “it is its wish to see more being done in order to improve both production and productivity in these areas.
“On its part Government will continue to give enabling policy guidelines and the necessary technical and extension support services in order to facilitate the efforts of the farmers and other stakeholders to bring about productivity,”