NOEL IYOMBWA writes
THE Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute has recommended that adequate and appropriate policies and legal framework be put in place to grow Zambia’s forestry industry.
The institute made the recommendation in its submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Land and Natural Resources on the Management of the Forestry Sector in Zambia on February 6.
In making the submission, IAPRI Executive Director, Mr. Change Kabaghe, observed that, with deforestation rates estimated between 167,000 and 300,000 per hectare, the forests in Zambia were under threat of extinction.
Mr. Kabaghe pointed out that Zambia’s forest cover has so far reduced from 71 percent in 1990 to 65 percent in 2015 and that the decline is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.
He named agricultural land expansion, unsustainable agricultural practices, infrastructure, and mining developments and urbanization as the main drivers of deforestation.
Mr. Kabaghe however, singled out charcoal burning as the main driver of deforestation especially in areas close to urban centers were the demand for the commodity is high.
“Eighty five percent of rural households depending on firewood as the main energy source,” he said.
“Forest loss threatens to erode nearly 5.5 percent potential contribution of forests to national income, engendering climate change and that the loss might be higher for poor rural households who derive 22 percent of their household incomes from the forest,” Mr. Kabaghe said.
According to Mr. Kabaghe, timber still remained the main direct product of the forests and annual timber exports, mainly from sawn timber, were estimated at about 8,000 m3.
“Non-timber forest products, like honey exports, are estimated at about 600 tons and 1000 tons for domestic consumption,” he said.
He revealed that it is estimated that about 110,000 m3 of Mukula is produced per year though the increased demand for the logs in China since 2012, has surged its exports.
Mr. Kabagahe observed that there are large discrepancies between the quantities Mukula logs reported as exported from Zambia and quantities recorded as imported in the recipient countries.
Mr. Kabaghe recommended that an Energy Act be enacted to regulate charcoal production and trade, and that the ban on Mukula exports be lifted in order to promote transparency in the export of the logs.
“This would enable the government to earn revenue from export permits and licensing, regulate trade in Mukula to enable local community where these resources are extracted to benefit,” he stated.
Mr. Kabaghe said this would require taking stock of what Mukula species are there and where, and designing effective resource management plans that include local communities.
“Given the pace at which Mukula is extracted, it may be prudent for the government to consider registering Mukula in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which Zambia a signatory is, “he stated.