Shortage of electricity fuelling deforestation in Zimbabwe

THE current electricity crisis in Zimbabwe is hindering efforts by government to reduce deforestation, Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu has said.

Speaking at the 39th National Tree Planting Ceremony held in Epworth on Saturday, Ndlovu said as the power crisis increased, more than eight percent of the population has resorted to using firewood as a source of energy, a situation which has caused the wanton cutting down of trees.

“With the current shortage of electricity, over 80% of our people now rely on wood for heating and cooking, exacerbating deforestation in the country which now stands at approximately 330 000 hectares every year,” Ndlovu said.

The minister also said climate change effects had picked up due to the worsening depletion of the country’s forests.

Ndlovu emphasised the need to intensify the planting of more trees in all areas around the country.

“Due to climate change in Zimbabwe, we have experienced first-hand the impact of the phenomenon through such natural disasters as Cyclone Idai.

“After the floods, reports suggested that landslides that killed many people occurred in areas that had been heavily deforested,” he said.

Ndlovu said the impact would have been countered if there had been enough trees in the areas affected.

Speaking at the same event, the director of Sustainable Afforestation Association of Zimbabwe (SAAZ), Andrew Mills, said perennial shortages of electricity in the country were hindering efforts at reforestation.

“When residents have got no alternative for fuel, it’s very difficult to stop them from chopping down trees. The deforestation process becomes a complex situation to solve,” Mills said.

He further said Zimbabweans now needed to be inducted on other alternatives of energy besides just firewood and electricity.

“Zimbabweans now need to be educated on efficient wood burning stoves and jelly gas, otherwise without electricity it’s difficult to stop deforestation.”

Epworth Local Board Chairperson Batanai Masunda said although most people in the area did not have electrified homes, it was high time they start utilising other sources of power such as gas.

“We need to educate our people on how to save the few trees available and also stress to them on the need to plant more trees in our communities.

“As we continue with Epworth’s regularisation programme, more trees will be chopped to clear space for roads, houses and shops, hence the major reason to plant more trees in Epworth,” Masunda said.

Majority of households in Epworth use firewood to cook since the peri-urban area is still undergoing development.