Zimbabwe tries to mitigate tobacco deforestation - China Dialogue
The tobacco industry causes a fifth of Zimbabwe’s forest loss. What is being done to minimise this?
At the beginning of this century, the Zimbabwean government embarked on an audacious land reform programme, ostensibly to correct the injustices suffered by local people when the land was colonised.
The controversial programme saw an estimated 170,000 black Zimbabwean families – mostly small-scale farmers – taking over agricultural production from about 3,000 white-owned farms.
After a decade under the shadow of macroeconomic mismanagement and hyperinflation, the black farmers became highly productive. As well as staple crops such as maize, they increasingly grew tobacco.
The number of tobacco farmers has continued to grow since, and by 2020, tobacco was Zimbabwe’s second largest foreign currency earner after gold mining.
Last year, the tobacco farmers sold more than 200,000 tonnes of leaf worth an estimated US$600 million, according to government figures cited by Xinhua.
The rise of tobacco as a key cash crop in Zimbabwe has, however, had consequences, most notably for the country’s forests.
Zimbabwe loses an estimated 262,000 hectares of forest annually and 15–20% of this loss is due to tobacco, according to Violet Matoko, a spokesperson for the country’s Forestry Commission.
To mitigate this, in 2015 the government brought in a levy for tobacco farmers. The idea was to include the sector within the country’s afforestation drive. It is hard to discern the long-term impacts of the policy. But local communities may start to benefit from new woodlots planted to reduce the strain on indigenous forests, the trees of which are widely used to cure tobacco.
How does tobacco cause deforestation?
A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that tobacco has a “far more destructive impact on ecosystems” than other agricultural activities such as maize growing and even livestock grazing because “tobacco farm lands are more prone to desertification”.
In Zimbabwe, tobacco contributes directly to the expansion of the agricultural frontier at the expense of primary forest.
Geneva and Yaoundé, 26 May 2023. The Ministry of Economy, Planning and Land Planning of Cameroon (MINEPAT) and CAFI are launching two Calls for Expressions of Interest today to all relevant implementing organisations concerned, representing a maximum of 60 million US$.
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The tobacco industry causes a fifth of Zimbabwe’s forest loss. What is being done to minimise this? At the beginning of this century, the Zimbabwean government embarked on an audacious land reform programme, ostensibly to correct the injustices suffered by local people when the land was colonised. The controversial programme saw an estimated 170,000 black Zimbabwean families – mostly small-scale farmers – taking over agricultural production from about 3,000 white-owned farms.
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The final quarter of 2022 was particularly busy and memorable for us. Earlier in the year, during the first staff meeting I held as project manager, it was clear that perhaps the greatest concern for the LWC staff was the lack of a reliable source of fresh water....
The SWM Programme’s latest 3D virtual photographic exhibition is now online, and features two new exhibition rooms with images from Gabon and Madagascar by the award-winning photographers Brent Stirton and Rijasolo! Through a careful selection of photographs and videos you can get a first-hand glimpse of the SWM Programme efforts to improve wildlife conservation and food security in both countries.