Tree planting: Chikomba leads by example

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CONSERVATION and restoration programmes in various communities have suffered setbacks as a result of the passive and antagonistic attitude of some members of the local population.
Fires, illegal grazing and cutting down of trees as well as destruction of conservation infrastructure such as fences are some of the manifestations of the negative attitude.
Environmental experts such as L. S. Botero, chief of the Forest and Wildlands Conservation, FAO, says it is critical to get the buy-in of local communities in programmes where human activities are likely to be in conflict with conservation requirements.
According to pundits, participation and formation of partnerships, identification of problems, needs and aspirations of communities is required for successful conservation programmes.
The Chikomba community in Chivhu is one group that has decided to cooperate in a bid to curb deforestation.
The community has come together to plant 8 000 trees on a five-hectare piece of land in a bid to reduce the hectarage of trees lost to veld fires.
Locals have been sensitised on the value of afforestation, soil and water conservation, catchment management and climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
The Forestry Commission has extended assistance to the programme by providing seedlings.
The community is being led by its traditional leaders who include Chief Musarurwa.
Speaking at the launch of the programme, Chief Musarurwa said the programme was important as it also ensured the preservation of indigenous trees.
“The Mukute tree which we planted today is an important tree to the people of Chivhu,” he said.
According to the Forestry Commission, there is need to avail funds for afforestation programmes.
The commission said there was low priority accorded to forestry seen through the inadequate funding of the sector which is exacerbated by the weak institutional capacity, brain drain and limited participation of local communities.
At least 300 000 hectares of forests are lost annually due to fires and other activities such as agricultural expansion.
Rampant cutting down of trees has not helped matters.
For instance, the exploitation of the teak wood is not being done sustainably and if not carefully handled will result in the country totally losing the tree.
“It is important that as a community we safeguard the trees we have planted,” said Chief Musarurwa.
The Chikomba community has thus far significantly reduced the hectarage lost to veld fires from 60 000 hectares to 32 000 hectares.
Forestry Commission vice-chairperson, Rose Mukogo said the planted trees will benefit the community in various ways.
“With an excess of 300 000 hectares of trees lost annually, tree planting is necessary and introducing trees is adding synthetic and economic value to the community and it is essential to ensure the survival of the trees and protecting them from grazing cattle, deforestation and fires since the community will get wood fuel and food from the trees,” Commissioner Mukogo said.
Commissioner Mukogo said there is need for the community to comply with laws that deal with transportation of wood so that trees sustainably exploited in infrastructural development and agricultural expansion.
The importance of trees can never be overstated in communities urban or rural which is why every year the country embarks on a tree planting exercise of at least 10 million trees.

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