Afforestation: toward sustainable tobacco production in Zimbabwe
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that Zimbabwe loses 300 000 hectares of indigenous forest per annum, an area the size of three Harare metropolitan areas, of which 45 000 is attributed to tobacco. The Sustainable Afforestation Association (SAA) was established by tobacco merchants of Zimbabwe in 2013 with the aim to mitigate the effects of deforestation attributed to tobacco curing. To achieve this goal, the industry must plant trees, use them more efficiently, protect them from pests, veld fires and poachers, and find alternatives to trees for curing. To this end SAA is planting trees, educating communities on the value of trees and promoting the enforcement of the laws related to fires and theft. It is however estimated that approximately 25 000 ha of commercially planted forest is needed per annum to allow the curing of a fully sustainable crop. To date, SAA has planted approx. 17 500 ha, at a rate of 3 500 ha per annum, while other tobacco companies have also their tree planting regimes. SAA’s footprint in Zimbabwe is now quite visible on most main roads, as trees are getting closer to maturity and harvest. Additionally, research is being carried out into alternative fuels by SAA, the Tobacco Research Board (TRB) Kutsaga and the merchants, as well as training farmers to become more efficient. The achievements to date and the challenges being faced in this project will be discussed in this paper.