Whinsley Masara in Harare
THE Government last week met environmentalists in Harare to draw up an all-inclusive and comprehensive National Forest Policy.
The first draft from the meeting is expected in August while the new policy is expected to be operational by year end.
Director for Environment in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Mr Irvine Kunene, said the country was failing to deal with deforestation and land degradation because it was operating without a forest policy.
He said lack of a guiding framework had resulted in the rate of deforestation increasing three-fold in recent years.
“This increase in deforestation has been attributed to the conversion of forest land to agricultural land which accounts for 80 percent of the deforestation rate.
“There are also a number of direct causes of forest degradation and these include poverty, population growth, markets and trade in forest products and macro- economic policies,” said Mr Kunene.
“There is therefore a need for government to come up with a National Forest policy so as to manage and conserve our forests,” he said.
Mr Kunene said the policy would provide a basis for forestry legislation and regulations that are consistent and comprehensive enough for the long term sustainable use of forests.
He said legislation would provide for the participation of people who depend on forests for their livelihoods in conservation efforts.
“Forest resources contribute about three to four percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and generally to the improvement of food security,” said Kunene.
A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Mr David Mfute, said the national forest policy would provide guidelines on how Zimbabwe can best manage its forest resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
“It is important that measures are taken to ensure that forest resources are available today and in the future as forests and trees have multiple functions as well as biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration that help in adapting and mitigating climate change.
“The development of the National Forest Policy will contribute directly to the attainment of the goals of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset),” said Mr Mfute.
He said this policy would also be in line with some key priorities of the FAO Zimbabwe Country Programme Framework 2016-2020 which were endorsed by government.
Forestry Commission Board Chairperson, Mrs Rose Mukogo, said: “We have so far covered most of the journey to craft our National Forest Policy which was first mooted in 2014,” she said.
Also present at the workshop were representatives of stakeholders drawn from the country’s 10 provinces.