TACKLING THE DEFORESTATION CAUSED BY TOBACCO FARMING
The Zambezi Society has received funding from the European Union via the African Wildlife Foundation to carry out a 3-year project to try to address the devastating effects that small-scale tobacco farming is having on the natural forests in an area of Hurungwe District, which lies to the south of the Zambezi Valley's Mana Pools-Sapi-Chewore World Heritage Site.
In recent years, tobacco has becoming extremely popular as a cash crop for farming communities in these remote and isolated areas. However, without access to coal or any other forms of technology, they are curing their crop in traditional wood-burning tobacco barns and the rate of deforestation in the surrounding areas is alarming and unsustainable. It is also encroaching into the wildlife habitat of the Zambezi Valley's protected areas.
Under the title "Improving conservation aspects of tobacco farming in Hurungwe District", The Zambezi Society has three years to accomplish the following:-
• To encourage land use management that ensures conservation and compatible land use by assisting growers (communities) to slow down the rate of deforestation and habitat loss in the Chundu Area of Hurungwe District.
• To engage stakeholders including Communities, Rural District Councils and Tobacco Buying Companies, to co-develop solutions to threats from tobacco curing and uncontrolled expansion of cultivation.
This is a daunting task given the fact that Zimbabwe is currently desperate for the export-earnings this crop provides. However, the Zambezi Society is determined to step up to the mark.
We have begun with holding discussions with some of Zimbabwe's leading tobacco merchants (Buying Companies). They share our concerns about the situation, and have expressed their willingness to work with us and other stakeholders on finding solutions to the problem of deforestation in these marginal lands adjacent to the Zambezi Valley's pristine wildlife areas.
The Key Components of this Project are:-
- MAPPING of the Chundu area of Hurungwe District adjacent to Mana Pools National Park to identify number and distribution of households, sites of highest deforestation threat and document rate of deforestation and growth of tobacco production.
- BASELINE SURVEY of historical land use practices and study of tobacco growing households to understand their needs/ challenges.
- PARTNERSHIPS via meetings with stakeholders (farming communities, Rural District Councils, traditional leaders, tobacco buying companies) to establish conservation agreements between the private sector companies and the tobacco growers.
- OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUPPORT from tobacco industry (tobacco buying companies to assist in reducing deforestation and habitat loss in the area)
- BEST PRACTICE encouragement (introduction of rocket barns) to improve efficiencies in curing tobacco and reduce deforestation and habitat loss. The aim is to select three households to act as pilot sites for rocket barns, to train them in the use of this alternative technology, and to monitor their use for two growing seasons.
- FEEDBACK WORKSHOPS and REPORTS on lessons learned.