Tuesday, December 08, 2009
THROUGHOUT Zimbabwe, trees have been reduced to ash on the hearth or fireplace as they are being used for energy for cooking and heating. While rural dwellers used to use firewood for cooking, their urban counterparts have joined the fray due to the power outages that were being experienced.
As we are in the annual tree-planting season, it is vital that we understand the centrality of trees to our existence. And as we follow deliberations at the historic Climate Change Conference underway in Copenhagen, Denmark, let us not forget the role trees play in absorbing carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that absorb heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
Last week President Mugabe officially launched the National Tree Planting Programme in Gweru where he lamented the wanton destruction of trees like the mutohwe.
The President expressed hope that trees being planted nationally would cultivate a new culture of conserving flora, as they are the country’s heritage.
To date, no Zimbabwean has remained unaffected by the indiscriminate felling of trees, and the devastation of the environment.
It is because of this that an overwhelming majority has come to appreciate the importance of trees.
It is therefore in this context that we commend House of Assembly member of Uzumba constituency Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, who donated more than 2 000 tree seedlings, which were planted on National Tree Planting Day. Apart from village heads who received tree seedlings for their respective areas, all motorists driving along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway also received tree seedlings and fliers on how to plant and care for the trees.
This was indeed a commendable exercise by the Uzumba House of Assembly member, imagine the impact such a gesture would have if replicated by all the 210 House of Assembly legislators.
We must not only wait for December to plant trees, but should do it throughout the year since those who cut them down do not know time or season.
Tobacco farmers should embark on massive reforestation to ensure sustainable use of wood as fuel for curing tobacco.
Our farmers cannot continue growing tobacco in an unsustainable way. For every tree chopped to cure tobacco, 10 should be planted in its place. Homesteads, roadsides, recreational parks and small rural fields should all be re-greened.
There are areas where it is difficult to get trees for building purposes.
This scarcity, which affects nearly everybody, has created conditions that make most people value trees and therefore receptive to efforts aimed at redressing the damage done to vegetation.
There is willingness to do something about reversing the degradation. The rainfall so far this year has been kind. It provided a sound basis for the annual tree planting activities, as Zimbabweans demonstrated their commitment to conservation of natural resources.
The benefits are becoming self-evident to communities and if every household planted several trees each year and looked after them, in less than a decade the effect would be phenomenal.
The level of awareness and degree of interest are indications of the success of the national tree-planting programme.
To restore the lost forests, in some areas, would halt the slide towards desertification, attempt to minimise the effects of global warming, increase the capacity of land to retain more water by preventing run-off, effectively increasing agricultural productivity. It would make the rural areas more pleasant to live in.
But, in the meantime, there is need to find cheaper energy alternatives because this is one of the main factors together with tobacco curing responsible for much of the destruction of forests, as people attempt to provide for their fuel requirements.
The continued participation of villagers and schoolchildren in these activities is critical. Village elders can encourage re-afforestation, police destructive activities, while in children the programme is nurturing a generation with a high degree of environmental consciousness.