CHIREDZI – Cross border charcoal merchants are destroying forests in the Lowveld as business opportunities are reportedly booming in neighbouring Mozambique, with the iconic Mopani tree now facing an unprecedented threat.
Livison Welani Phikelele, an operations and liaison officer at Masapasi Ranch in Save Valley, said people are making brisk business from charcoal which they produce by razing and burning down large numbers of the prized tree.
Phikelele told TellZim News that three trucks each with 150 bags of charcoal were recently caught on their way to Mozambique.
"We are worried because it seems people are making a brisk business of charcoal and destroying an important tree species in this region. Even if you catch them, nothing much is done to punish them. They only made to pay a small fine and they are then allowed to take their charcoal and proceed with their journey," said Phikelele.
He said at one time, his own team stopped a truck with 150 bags of charcoal but they were surprised to learn that the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) fined the owners of the truck a mere US$200 and the truck was released.
Though no comment could be obtained from EMA, it is understood the Forestry Commission is deeply worried and is set to visit Masapasi area where the charcoal production is done.
Members of the public have also raised alarm that if the level of deforestation in Chiredzi continues at the current pace, the district will become a desert in no time.
Selling firewood and charcoal is a source of livelihood for many families who ply their trade on roadsides in areas like Gwachara and around the whole district.
Pronouncements by some Chiredzi Rural District Council senior officials that they will take strong measures to stop the firewood business to fight rapid deforestation have for now remained empty talk.news