New board at Forestry Commission

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THE Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, announced the new Forestry Commission Board in a move aimed at quickly addressing the challenges currently bedevilling the forestry industry.
Challenges bedevilling the forestry sector include rampant deforestation, land degradation and soil erosion, land use change, illegal mining, uncontrolled fires, poaching and illegal settlements within the gazetted forests.
Many boards in companies and parastatals have come and gone with a trend that has seen the appointment of every new Minister seeing a change in boards, resulting in a compromise in corporate governance issues.
Corporate governance issues were adopted by the Ministry of State Enterprises and Parastatals some years ago as it launched the Corporate Governance Training Programme aimed at spreading awareness and promoting adherence to the principles of good corporate governance.
Government that year contracted the services of the joint partnership of Price Water House Coopers and the Institute of Directors Zimbabwe (IODZ) to design and execute a corporate governance training programme which would ensure adherence to core principles of promoting sound corporate governance and ensure that the different parastatals and state enterprises become viable and productive and contribute to the Gross Domestic Product.
The previous Forestry Commission Board had to be untimely relieved of its duties because they were not able to rise to the challenges in the industry.
With a new thrust taken by the Government which saw the Commission becoming a stand-alone parastatal it no longer received grants, the Commission, corporate governance issues, unpaid workers, the Forestry Commission had to become self-sufficient.
The Forestry Commission management was forced to remain, forming public-private-partnerships with Shearwater and Wild Zambezi for its lodges to make sure they remain viable.
The partnership would see the expansion of these lodges to lower the costs.
This new board comes in to an already laid foundation.
Announcing the board, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said the new board was filled with capable individuals
“Following the dissolution of the previous board of Commissioners in 2016, my ministry identified capable individuals from various key sectors who were duly vetted and approved by His Excellency the President, Robert Mugabe,” she said.
“These selected individuals are knowledgeable in the complex forestry-related issues and I am confident they have the capacity to unlock the value from our forestry resources.
“Their appointment is in line with the provisions of the Forestry Act 19:05.
“The appointment of this board of Commissioners comes at a time the sector is faced with various challenges which need to be urgently addressed.”
The recent agrarian reform saw many new farmers being allocated land on forest land.
Some of the farmers have, for various reasons, changed land use from forest to agriculture.
These challenges have been further worsened by the current reduced revenues which the sector and specifically the Forestry Commission are faced with.
This has negatively affected the ability of the parastatal to carry out its mandate effectively.
The new Board, to be led by Professor Amon Murwira, will see the board steering the Forestry industry into a self-sufficient and effective parastatal following Government’s lack of funding for the parastatal.
Other members include Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba as the vice-chairperson, Wilfred Motsi, Marius Dzinoreva, Nancy Matshe and Dr Dan Sithole.
Other members will be announced in due course with the Ministry currently considering six other individuals to join the newly announced board.
The Forestry Commission Board is expected to successfully implement fruit tree production and ensure the country has more than 25 million fruit tree seedlings from the current seven million.
Consultations have been underway with private companies, such as Schweppes, expected to receive more contract farmers to produce the 40 000 deficit of orange trees.
Schweppes contracted over 200 community farmers in Beitbridge to produce oranges.
In order to achieve this target, there is need for infrastructure to support the Command Agro-forestry industry.
Also identified for this project is the avocado pear which has a lucrative market in China.
With China only supposedly taking fruit from Zimbabwe because the fruits are disease-free, the agro-forestry industry has an opportunity to export to that country.
The new board is also expected to take note of the resurgence of eucalyptus pests and diseases such as thaumastocoris peregrines and leptocybe invas and other phytosanitary-related issues.
Other challenges which the new board is expected to take on are to ensure improved revenue generation as Government is no longer giving the Commission grants.
Drivers of deforestation should make sure that alternative energy sources other than wood are explored and implemented with the current deforestation rate estimated at 350 000 hectares per annum.
Veld fires should also be reduced with the country already having lost 112 000 hectares of tick and mopani trees in Matabeleland North Province.
The Board should address the issue of salaries and workers’ grievances at the Forestry Commission since the organisation has a salary backlog of five months.
Organisation structure and functioning of the Commission must also be on the agenda to make sure the organisation is efficient and productive.
The Forestry Commission is mandated with the administration, control and management of state forests, the setting aside of state forests and for the protection of private forests, trees and forest produce, among others.

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