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    Saturday, 13 April 2019

    Selling firewood, charcoal big business in Chiredzi

    Charcoal file pic.
    Big clampdown against offenders in the offing

    MORRIS BISHI
    CHIREDZI BUREAU

    CHIREDZI – Selling firewood and charcoal has become big business in Chiredzi North to the extent that trucks are daily plying as far as Harare ferrying these products for sale.
    This new industry has come along with its terrible twin; deforestation to the extent that Government is planning a massive clampdown on those involved.
    The people involved in the trade are resettled farmers and switching business from agriculture to lumbering seriously betrays the poor planning of the country’s land resettlement programme as the low rainfall pattern in region 5 is failing to sustain cropping.
    Before the resettlement, Chiredzi North was a commercial cattle ranging area.
    Chiredzi District Administrator (DA) Lovemore Chisema said the operation to arrest all firewood and charcoal dealers is on the cards and is going to be undertaken without notice. He accused resettled Chiredzi North farmers of supplying firewood to dealers in Harare and other towns. The Mopani tree is the most threatened as it is the best for firewood.
    The clampdown will involve the Environmental Management Agency, Forestry Commission, Chiredzi Rural District Council, Police, and the military said Chisema.
    The resettled farmers who now almost completely shun their fields, cut the Mopani trees and the traders, using trucks and public transporters then collect the wood from along the road with some going into the farms.
    The Mopani trees are also turned into charcoal before it’s sold to traders. The processing of the firewood to charcoal is done at nearly all farms. The process involves burning Mopani trees in the absence of oxygen in holes dug at the farms.

    The resettled farmers have deserted the land and they are felling every Mopani tree that they can lay their hands on and selling either raw firewood or charcoal to truckers heading to Chiredzi Town and beyond.
    The farmers earn $ 20 per of wood and for charcoal they earn $ 10 per bucket of charcoal.
    Mopani trees are important for their rich nutrient to their ecosystems and their leaves are also a favourite with elephants.
    “There is alarming and rampant cutting down of trees in the district which is a big threat to our forests. The problem is most serious in Chiredzi North where selling firewood and charcoal has become brisk business.
    “The district Joint Operation Command sat down and agreed that the illegal activity is getting out of hand and we must deal with it decisively. Anytime we should be clamping down on the offenders and we are going to do that without warning.
    “We now have all information on who is involved in cutting, in ferrying and selling charcoal and firewood. We know places where these activities are rife. Several operations were held before but this one is going to be the biggest of all since it is aimed at stamping out the practice for good. People who are supposed to engage in farming are neglecting their fields to deal in this illegal business” said Chisema.
    Chiredzi District Environmental Officer, Peter Mugodhi said hundreds of people are going to be arrested in the operation.
    The area was occupied by white farmers who were cattle and animal farmers before the land reform which started in early 2000.
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