Nigerian tourism and challenge of insecurity

The fear of insecurity in the country has created a hole in the profit margin accruing to the tourism sector, which is why so much needs to be done and hurriedly too.

In 2014, the World Travel and Tourism Council calculated that tourism comprises of about 11 percent of the global GDP. The organisation also declared that the worth of expert of tourist provisions is nearly 6 to 7 percent of complete exports of services and goofs. Assessment has it that tourism industry hires nearly 6 percent of the global professional population staff includes railway employees, travel agents, airline employees, taxi workers, hotel employees, bank personnel, insurances, tour or travel guides, vendors, photographers, life savers, potters, as well as individual in control of locations visited by tourists like art, museums, shops, galleries, parts and theatres. Therefore, tourism is a function that cuts across the majority of the economic activity of a country.

Counting the many blessings of tourism in the recent years, there has been improvement in the protection of Nigerian culture, tradition and historical legacy. The significance of tourism development thus in protecting both natural and manmade context cannot be over-estimated especially in the preservation and protection of several historic, archaeological and cultural destinations from destruction due to its positive utilization in such areas. The several natural resources such as national games and parks resources are instances of such positive utilization. Tourism has expanded the country’s economic baseline and assets of foreign exchange through the development of global tourism and made more employment options to accept an ever raising work force.

However, the security situation in the country is dashing the gains of tourism to pieces presently.

In her journal, tourism scholar and enthusiast, Mojúbàolú Olufunke mentions that

“The Boko Haram sect has infused so much fear and anxiety on the legal enforcement agents and institutions of Nigeria. In reality, relocating to the northern area of the state has become abhorrence to, particularly members of the police force from the southern region of Nigeria going by the persistent killing and assaults conducted by members of this group who are sternly averse to all forms and nature of education or civilization”

In a recent interview with the Conservator- General of the National Park Service (NPS), Haruna Tanko, he decried the level of insecurity and infrastructure which is responsible for the deficit in revenue.

“The NPS currently operates seven national parks across the country covering a land area of 24, 000 square kilometers. The National Park Service has been playing a crucial role in intelligence gathering for the country’s military in the Northeast and the forest bothering Chad and Cameroun,

“Since we have been upgraded to a para- military agency by the President, we have been working closely with other security outfits as well as have a joint border patrol.

“National parks are located in the rural areas and mostly in the borders between Nigeria and other African countries. In most cases, when there are cases of insecurity, especially coming from those areas, there is always collaboration between us (and other agencies in terms of patrolling the areas.

He regretted that insecurity and infrastructure deficit have been a challenge to maximizing the potentials of the Parks, “The Park realised thirty-two million naira as against the forty seven million naira, he added.

Furthermore, Mr. Tomi Akingbogun, Vice President, Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), has ascribed the drop in the influx of tourists to the country to the ineffective management of the county’s image, adding that the increase in bills; insecurity and other economic challenges made visits to tourist sites in the country difficult.

“The government is not giving the right attention to development of tourism. Dubai works on tourism, Kenya, South Africa; see how many billions they are making; why are we allowing Nigeria to just go down.

He explained that if there was no movement of tourists within the country, there would be no influx of tourists from outside the country, a situation, which he said, had undermined Nigeria’s ranking as a tourist destination.

However, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, the Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation argues that Nigeria is not the only country that is dealing with terrorism or insecurity, it is a global issue.

“It’s a global issue. Our job is to create awareness, to let people know where is safe and not safe. There will be tourism police and guard. For example look at South- West, South-West is safe, tourism industry is booming, Lagos is doing very well and all the others as well as other Geo-political zones so security is not a barrier.

Supporting Mrs. Mbanefo’s claim, Mrs. Sola Olumeko, said that there is no place that is actually free of vices

“There is no place that is actually free of vices. So for our tourism industry to thrive, we should focus more on positive than negative reports that will scare tourists away”.

“Other countries have excelled in tourism because they don’t look at their bad sides, they look at the good sides of their country and that should be our orientation in Nigeria as well”. She added emphatically, “Security is a very sensitive issue in tourism; I would rather prefer you talk about tourism and the potentials of what we have that can attract tourists which can also help to enhance our own image. I don’t think it is only Nigeria that has security challenge, it is all over the world”.

Throwing more light on what can be done to convince people that Nigeria is still safe and secure for tourists visiting the country, the Director of Tourism described Nigerians as warm and hospitable people who accommodate any tribe or foreigner, no matter the religion. She discloses further on cultural diversity and tourist sites that can attract foreigners to the country.

“Nigeria comprises 36 states with diverse cultures and big festivals that are internationally-recognised. We also have interesting sites to visit like Obudu Ranch Resort, Tinapa and various artefacts. The civil servant agreed though that the country should focus more on providing necessary infrastructural facilities.

However, Mr Boris Bornman, the General Manager, Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers argued further that there is no guarantee for safety in the country as lots of people abroad see the country like the old Soviet, where many believe that there is an iron curtain and until that curtain of insecurity is removed, people won’t come.

“Without doubt, the more violent the situation gets, the more people will stay away from Abuja and Nigeria at large. Do not forget that Nigeria is not a tourist destination yet, but a business market. Again, in spite of the huge potentials of Nigeria’s cultural tourism that can attract tourists, they will all stay away because of insecurity. As I speak with you, lots of people abroad see the country like the old Soviet, where many believe that there is an iron curtain and until that curtain of insecurity is removed, people won’t come.

“To be honest with you, we now have to spend more money on security than ever before in the history of our operations. We have to import detective equipment, spend extra money on CCTV cameras, and the list goes on and on in other to provide at least minimum security for our guests.

“Regrettably, Nigeria is a beautiful country and you have wonderful things that people want to see, but the fear of insecurity and violent keeps people away. Imagine Zimbabwe with the entire international political buzz, tourists from UK and around Europe still go there. Zambia and their likes too also have a fair share of international arrivals because they have been able to guarantee safety of visitors to their countries.

He added that in those countries, tourism accounts for between 15-20 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product [GDP] and the tourists’ dollars spent in their countries matters.

“Like you know too, it’s not compulsory that the entire country is promoted as tourist zone, but those sections that can be promoted be done because Nigeria has some unique cultures that most people around the world have not seen and they would want to see such.”

Meeting of SADC Ministers Responsible for Water

1. Ministers responsible for the Water Sector from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States met on 3rd July 2015 in Harare, Zimbabwe to review progress and provide guidance on the implementation of the third phase of the Regional Strategic Action Plan on Integrated Water Resources Management and Development (RSAP III) 2011-2015.

2. The RSAP III is the framework for action to achieve the sustainable development of water resources in the SADC region through the development of water infrastructures on the basis of sound water governance and water management.

3. The SADC Water Minsters meeting was preceded by preparatory meetings of senior officials in the water sector and those from the Okavango River Basin Watercourse Commission (OKACOM), the Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM), and the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM).

4. Taking advantage of the presence of Ministers, the Ministers from the OKACOM and the ZAMCOM met on 2nd July ahead of the SADC Water Ministers meetings to clear and approve several strategic documents.

5. The meeting was officially opened by Zimbabwe’s Minister for Environment, Water and Climate, Hon. Saviour Kasukuwere who expressed gratitude to the honourable members of the SADC Ministers Responsible for Water for having accepted the invitation to attend the meeting.

6. Speaking on behalf of the SADC Secretariat, the Director of Infrastructure and Services Directorate, Mr Remigious Makumbe paid tribute to the ministers for their continued guidance to the implementation of the water programme.

7. Mr. Makumbe also paid tribute to all SADC cooperating partners and Member States, for their support to the regional water programme.

8. The Meeting was attended by the following Ministers responsible for Water and/or their representatives:

Angola: Hon. Luis Filipe da Silva, Secretary of State, Ministry of Energy and Water

Botswana: His Excellence Kenny Kapinga, High Commissioner to Zimbabwe

Lesotho: Hon. Lincoln Ralechate Mokose, Minister of Water

Mozambique: Hon. Carlos Bonete Martinho, Minister of Public Works, Housing and Water Resources

Namibia: Hon. John Mutorwa, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry

Swaziland: Hon. Jabulile Mashwama, Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy

South Africa: His Excellence Vusi Mavimbela the Ambassador to Zimbabwe

Tanzania: Eng. Mbogo Futakamba, Permanent Secretary, in the Ministry of Water

Zambia: Hon. Charles Zulu, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Energy and Water Development

Zimbabwe: Hon. Saviour Kasukuwere, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate

9. The Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republics of Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, and Seychelles sent apologies.

10. In attendance also, were representatives from the African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW), ZAMCOM, Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASCEOM), OKACOM, Southern African Research and Documentation Centre I Musokotwane Environment Resource Centre for Southern Africa (SARDC IMERCSA), Global Water Partnership Southern Africa (GWP-SA), and WaterNet.

11. Ministers noted that the implementation of the SADC Water programme continued to register remarkable progress despite human resource capacity challenges at the Secretariat, and urged member states to continue facilitating the implementation of programmes that were lagging.

12. Ministers noted that three out of the 15 Programmes in the RSAP III did not receive resources to facilitate their implementation. The three programmes are on water quality and environment, economic accounting for water use, and assessment of surface water resources.

13. Ministers adopted the report on the Mid-Term Evaluation on the implementation of the RSAP III and the Protocol on shared watercourses which was conducted in 2014 by independent consultants. The report highlights achievements and challenges faced in implementing the RSAP III and describes the SADC Water Programme as a unique regional programme that helped to build and instil a spirit of cooperation in transboundary water resources management and development, and facilitated discussions and engagements between riparian states at the basin level, and across the region through water weeks and Multi-Stakeholder Water Dialogues.

14. Ministers reviewed and approved the draft structure and content of the fourth Phase of RSAP which is currently being developed, and directed SADC Secretariat to finalize the strategy in collaboration with the Water Resources Technical Committee (WRTC) members. The RSAP IV will run from 2016 to 2020.

15. Ministers also encouraged Member States to participate in on-going consultations on thematic topics to be included in the RSAP IV.

Consultations on issues to include in the RSAP IV have been on-going during the SADC National Water Weeks which have so far been conducted in 11 of the 15 member states. The SADC National Water Weeks are scheduled to take place during the month of July in the outstanding four member states.

16. Ministers also reviewed and approved the list of priority intervention areas for the water sector programme for the 2016/17 budgeting and planning year.

17. Ministers reviewed the status of implementation of projects in the various river Basins in the SADC Region, namely the Okavango, Limpopo, Orange-Senqu, Buzi, Save, Ruvuma, Zambezi, Kunene, Cuvelai, Incomati/Maputo and Pungwe, and commended the state parties of the basins for the progress made in implementing various projects.

18. On water projects in the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan: Ministers noted that the Secretariat continued to promote the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) and its associated Projects through various means including investor conferences. Secretariat has prepared a list of priority projects from the Master Plan which are ready for investment financing and those that still required development and packaging so that they are easily accessible when promoting them to potential financers.

19. Ministers urged Member States to continue supporting the process of promoting projects to financers by availing information to facilitate project development, packaging, financing and subsequent implementation.

20. Ministers further noted that SADC Secretariat continued to support implementation of the Lomahasha/Namaacha joint cross-border water supply project between Mozambique and Swaziland. The project aims to provide sustainable water supply and sanitation services to the communities living in the border towns of the two countries.

21. Ministers noted that the SADC Secretariat and GIZ were exploring different avenues for funding support of the Member States to undertake construction of the water supply schemes once feasibility assessment is completed for the Lomahasha/Namacha project.

22. On Joint Cross border water initiatives: Ministers noted that the SADC Secretariat in close collaboration with the Governments of DRC, Zambia and Tanzania, was conducting a study for cross-border water supply and sanitation schemes for the border towns of Kasumbalesa (DRC/Zambia) and Nakonde/Tunduma (Zambia and Tanzania). The study which is supported by the German Government in delegated cooperation with Australian and UK Governments is scheduled to complete by the end of July 2015.

23. Ministers urged the participating Member States to continue supporting the project, and to consider setting aside some funds as contribution, since some of the funding sources were likely to require a certain proportion of country contribution.

24. On Regional Water Supply and Sanitation: Ministers noted that a two-year Regional Water Supply and Sanitation project that was supported by African Water Facility of the African Development Bank (AfDB) was successfully completed in September 2014. The objectives of the project included establishment of a collaborative regional framework for effective planning and management of water supply and sanitation to enable the Member States to improve the provision of water supply and sanitation at country level.

25. On the Kunene Transboundary Water Supply and Sanitation Project: Ministers noted that implementation on the Kunene Transboundary Water Supply and Sanitation Project, which is a SADC pilot involving southern Angola and northern Namibia slowed because of new changes in the project scope and urged the two Member States and SADC Secretariat to fast-tract the project implementation in view of the time already lost and the delayed benefits to the intended communities. The project entails development and rehabilitation of water supply and sanitation infrastructure for communities and towns in the project area. Another important component of the project is to establish and build the capacity of a water utility entity in the Kunene province in Angola.

26. On the SADC Hydrological Cycle Observing Systems (HYCOS) Project: Ministers noted the substantial progress in the implementation of the SADC HYCOS Project which was being implemented in collaboration with the SADC Climate Services Centre (SADC CSC), and directed the Secretariat to facilitate the speedy implementation of the Project and secure additional financial resources to support the implementation of the fully fledged next phase of SADC-HYCOS.

27. On Sustainable Ground Water Management Project in SADC: Ministers commended the Secretariat for securing a total of USD 10.2 million comprising USD8.2 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the World Bank and USD 2.0 million from the Cooperation in International Water in Africa (CIWA) Trust Fund to implement a five-year programme which will be a follow up to the SADC Groundwater and Drought Management Project that was piloted in the Limpopo basin from 2009 to 2011. The implementation of the Groundwater programme which will be hosted at the University of Free State (UFS) is scheduled to start as soon as recruitment of the Director to serve as a Project Manager is completed by the end of July 2015.

28. On Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Demonstration Projects: Ministers noted that SADC Secretariat continued to facilitate implementation of the IWRM Demonstration Projects in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and that implementation of the infrastructure components was already advanced in Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia.

29. Ministers urged SADC Secretariat to assist the participating Member States to fast-track the implementation the projects to ensure that all activities were completed by the end of the project in September 2015, so that the communities benefit, and lessons learned be shared with other Member States in the region.

30. Ministers further noted that the SADC Secretariat was collaborating with the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF) to support the SADC Water Sector in implementing infrastructure-related projects in the RSAP III and as several small-scale water supply projects in member states.

31. On Capacity Building and Training Programmes: Ministers commended SADC Secretariat for contributing to the development of technical and other skills through post-graduate programmes offered by WaterNet, a subsidiary of SADC, and short courses conducted by the Water Sector.

32. Minister noted that 30 professionals from Member States and River Basin organizations were trained in November 2014 on Negotiation Skills in Transboundary Water Management and International Water Law, in addition to several short courses conducted by WaterNet and SADC Water Sector.

33. Ministers noted that during the reporting period WaterNet received a total of 339 applications for sponsorship for the 2015/2016 intake to the WaterNet IWRM Masters Programme, and that 28 scholarships with funding from the Dutch Government were awarded to nationals from all SADC Member States except, Angola and islands States as no applications were received. At least two scholarships were granted to each Member State.

34. Ministers also noted that most of the WaterNet graduates held hold positions in water departments in the member states and urged member states to make adequate budgetary provisions in their training and capacity building programmes to support at least one candidate from own resources to participate in the WaterNet Masters on IWRM Programme.

35. Ministers commended SADC Secretariat for developing a comprehensive Strategic Human Capacity Development Plan (SHCDP) which will also be mainstreamed into the RSAP IV. The SHCDP was developed with support from the German Government in delegated cooperation with Australia and UK governments and SADC Secretariat is currently mobilising resources to roll out the plan.

36. Ministers reviewed and approved the draft SADC Water Research Agenda, and directed the Secretariat to work in close collaboration with WaterNet and Southern Africa Network of Water Centre of Excellence (SANWATCE) to facilitate its finalization and implementation.

37. On Gender Mainstreaming in the Water Sector: Ministers noted that in-line with SADC policy instruments which required all SADC water institutions to integrate the principles, goals and objectives of gender mainstreaming in their administration and implementation programmes, a two-year project on Gender Mainstreaming in Transboundary Water Management was being implemented.

38. Ministers further noted that during implementation of the project which comes to an end in August 2015, Ministries responsible for Water nominated Gender Focal Persons in their Ministries to facilitate and coordinate gender mainstreaming in the water sector.

39. Ministers encouraged Member States to provide support to the Gender Focal Persons in order to sustain the gender mainstreaming activities within the water sector.

40. On Awareness and Communication initiatives: Ministers noted the progress made in enhancing awareness and communication on water issues in SADC which included, among others, Media Awards, Media Training on Water Reporting, and Awareness Videos Productions.

41. Ministers commended SADC Secretariat for playing a major role in communicating water issues in the region and encouraged Member States to facilitate the efforts by sharing information on water issues from SADC Water meetings within their departments, ministries and with the media.

42. Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM): Ministers noted that the ZAMCOM Council of Ministers meeting on 2nd July 2015, approved to increase each riparian country’s contribution to USD100 000 by 2020.

Currently ZAMCOM Member States contribute USD25 000 each year and from 2016 they are expected to start contributing USD60 000 and thereafter increase by USD10 000 each year until they reach USD100 000.

43. Ministers further noted that the ZAMCOM Council reviewed progress on the implementation of the ZAMCOM programme and approved various institutional and governance guiding instruments including the extension for the ZAMCOM Executive Secretary for three years.

44. Ministers also noted that Botswana will be the next chair for the ZAMCOM, taking over from Angola.

45. On Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM): Ministers noted that LIMCOM did not hold any meeting during the year 2013/2014 and that a number of activities stalled due to lack of guidance, a situation that put the funding by International Cooperating Partners (ICP) at risk.

46. Ministers urged the LIMCOM States to convene and resolve all pending issues including finalising the recruitment of the Executive Secretary for LIMCOM.

47. On the Orange-Senqu River Basin: Ministers noted that the Orange-Senqu Water Commission (ORASECOM) continued to implement its programme on water in the basin with support from a number of cooperating partners organised directly by the Secretariat and through SADC and commended the ORASECOM riparian Member States and the Secretariat for their success in the implementation of the ORASECOM work programme.

48. On Kunene and Cuvelai Basins: Ministers noted that Angola and Namibia concluded and signed the process to establish the Cuvelai Commission (CUVECOM) in-line with the provisions of the regional Water Protocol on Shared Watercourses in September 2014 and SADC Secretariat was mobilising resources to support the strengthening of the Commission.

Ministers also noted that Angola and Namibia are working out modalities to establish the Kunene Basin Commission.

49. On OKACOM: Ministers noted that OKACOM was in the process of reviewing its institutional structure to accommodate the Forum of Ministers as a regular structure of the OKACOM as the apex body.

50. On the Incomati/Maputo basins: Ministers noted that the process of establishing a Secretariat for the joint Incomati/Maputo basin in Swaziland was on going and pending the approval processes by Cabinet for Swaziland as the host.

51. On Support to mainstreaming youth into the water sector: Ministers noted that youth forums were being organized as part of the SADC Water Weeks to bring together youth groups and raise awareness on water sector activities and advocate for their involvement in water resources management issues.

Source: allafrica

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Southern Africa: SA Attends Meeting of SADC Water Ministers

Water and Sanitation Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, will today attend the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Water Ministers Meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The ministers, who represent 15 member states of SADC, will be reviewing the progress on the implementation of the third phase of the Regional Strategic Action Plan on Integrated Water Resources Management and Development (RSAP III) 2011 – 2015.

The ministers are also expected to provide strategic and political guidance on the fourth phase of the SADC Water Programme (RSAP IV), which is currently under development.

Several meetings have been held among senior government officials representing the 15 member states of SADC in preparation of the meeting of ministers.

South Africa has over the years promoted cooperation within SADC on the sustainable management of water resources in the region and their use to unlock both social and economic development.

Water is an economic and social asset that must be harvested and utilised to provide adequate water supply, sanitation, energy, food security and industrial and infrastructure development across SADC.

In this regard, the country has several bi-lateral agreements with neighbouring states and SADC member states on water management, security and provision.

This includes the recently signed agreement with Zimbabwe during the State Visit to South Africa by Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe in April 2015.

The minister will be accompanied by senior officials of the Department of Water and Sanitation, some of whom have been engaged in the pre-negotiations in preparation for the Ministers meeting.

Source: allafrica

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Zimbabwe: Tourism an Instrument of Peace – Mnangagwa

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has encouraged African countries to adopt tourism as a means of ensuring peace and understanding among people.

Officially opening the eighth edition of the Sanganai/Hlanganai World Tourism Expo in Harare last week, VP Mnangagwa said the tourism industry was known for building peace.

“The concept of peace through tourism suggests that tourism can act as a means to promote cultural understanding by bringing together people from different cultural backgrounds and that’s fostering peace.”

He said tourism promoted peace, alleviated poverty, improved international peace standards, preserved heritage, protected the environment and promoted sustainable development.

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“I believe that this is a very positive way of looking at tourism as it highlights how the sector can enhance a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures.

“Sanganai/Hlanganai brings together people who seek to promote peace through travel,” he said.

VP Mnangagwa said tourism had seen global economies expanding.

He said Government was taking efforts to ensure that Zimbabwe fully leveraged on tourism, adequately funded tourism promotion and ensured that the image of the country was not affected by negative perceptions.

This year’s edition of Sanganai/Hlanganai was running under the theme “Promoting Peace through tourism”, which is aligned to global theme for World Tourism Day 2015 which says “Tourism and Culture, promoting peace through tourism”.

The event was attended by Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Mr Karikoga Kaseke, tourism and foreign affairs ministers from different countries, participating in the tourism extravaganza.

Source: allafrica

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Zimbabwe’s Famed Forests Could Soon Be Desert

Harare — There’s a buzz in Zimbabwe’s lush forests, home to many animal species, but it’s not bees, bugs or other wildlife. It’s the sound of a high-speed saw, slicing through the heart of these ancient stands to clear land for tobacco growing, to log wood for commercial export and to supply local area charcoal sellers.

This, despite Zimbabwe being obliged under the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to ensure environmental sustainability by the end of this year.

“The rate at which deforestation is occurring here will convert Zimbabwe into an outright desert in just 35 years if pragmatic solutions are not proffered urgently and also if people keep razing down trees for firewood without regulation,” Marylin Smith, an independent conservationist based in Masvingo, Zimbabwe’s oldest town, and former staffer in the government of President Robert Mugabe, told IPS.

“The rate at which deforestation is occurring here will convert Zimbabwe into an outright desert in just 35 years if pragmatic solutions are not proffered urgently” – Marylin Smith, independent conservationist based in Masvingo, Zimbabwe

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Zimbabwe lost an annual average of 327,000 hectares of forests between 1990 and 2010.

Smith blamed Zimbabwe’s deforestation on the growing numbers of tobacco farmers who were cutting “millions of tonnes of firewood each year to treat the cash crop.”

According to the country’s Tobacco Industry Marketing Board, Zimbabwe currently has 88,167 tobacco growers, whom environmental activists say are the catalysts of looming desertification here.

“Curing tobacco using huge quantities of firewood and even increased domestic use of firewood in both rural and urban areas will leave Zimbabwe without forests and one has to imagine how the country would look like after the demise of the forests,” Thabilise Mlotshwa, an ecologist from Save the Environment Association, an environmental lobby group here, told IPS.

“But really, it is difficult to object to firewood use when this is the only energy source most rural people have despite the environment being the worst casualty,” Mlotshwa added.

Zimbabwe’s deforestation crisis is linked to several factors.

“There are thousands of timber merchants who have no mercy with our trees as they see ready cash in almost every tree and therefore don’t spare the trees in order to earn money,” Raymond Siziba, an agricultural extension officer based in Mvurwi, a district approximately 100 kilometres north of the Zimbabwean capital Harare, told IPS.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat), there were 66,250 timber merchants nationwide last year alone.

Deforestation is a complex issue. A recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that during the decade from 1980 to 1990, the world’s tropical forests were reduced by an average of 15.4 million hectares per year (an 0.8 percent annual rate of deforestation).

The area of land cleared during the decade is equivalent to nearly three times the size of France.

Developing countries rely heavily on wood fuel, the major energy source for cooking and heating. In Africa, the statistics are striking: an estimated 90 percent of the entire continent’s population uses fuelwood for cooking, and in sub-Saharan Africa, firewood and brush supply approximately 52 percent of all energy sources.

Zimbabwe is not the only sub-Saharan country facing a crisis in its forests. A panel run by the United Nations and the African Union and led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki found that in Mozambique thousands more logs were exported to China than were legally reported.

Disappearing forest cover is a particular problem in Ghana, where non-timber forest products provide sustenance and income for 2.5 million people living in or near forest communities.

Between 1990 and 2005, Ghana lost over one-quarter of its total national forest cover. At the current rate of deforestation, the country’s forests could completely disappear in less than 25 years. Current attempts to address deforestation have stalled due to lack of collaboration between stakeholders and policy makers.

In west equatorial Africa, a study by Greenpeace has called logging the single biggest threat to the Congo Basin rainforest. At the moment, logging companies working mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are busy cutting down trees in over 50 million hectares of rainforest, or an area the size of France, according to its website.

An estimated 20 to 25 percent of annual deforestation is thought to be due to commercial logging. Another 15 to 20 percent is attributed to other activities such as cattle ranching, cash crop plantations and the construction of dams, roads, and mines.

However, deforestation is primarily caused by the activities of the general population. As the Zimbabwe economy plummets, indigenous timber merchants are on the rise, battling to eke a living, with environmentalists accusing them of fuelling deforestation.

For many rural dwellers, lack of electricity in most rural areas is creating unsustainable pressures on forests in Zimbabwe.

“Like several other remote parts of Zimbabwe, we have no electricity here and for years we have been depending on firewood, which is the main source of energy for rural dwellers even for the past generations, and you can just imagine the amount of deforestation remote areas continue to suffer,” 61-year-old Irene Chikono, a teacher from Mutoko, 143 kilometres east of Harare, told IPS.

Even Zimbabweans with access to electricity are at the mercy of erratic power supplies from the state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), which is failing to meet electricity demand owing to inadequate finances to import power.

“With increasing electricity outages here, I often resort to buying firewood from vendors at local market stalls, who get this from farms neighbouring the city,” 31-year-old Collina Hokonya, a single mother of three residing in Harare’s high density Mbare suburb, told IPS.

Government claims it is doing all it can to combat deforestation but, faced with this country’s faltering economy, indigenous timber merchants and villagers say it may be hard for them to refrain from tree-felling.

“We are into the timber business not by choice, but because of joblessness and we therefore want to make money in order to survive,” Mevion Javangwe, an indigenous timber merchant based in Harare, told IPS.

“A gradual return of people from cities to lead rural life as the economy worsens is adding pressure on rural forests as more and more people cut down trees for firewood,” Elson Moyo, a village head in Vesera village in Mwenezi, 144 kilometres south-west of Masvingo, told IPS.

“Politicians are plundering and looting the hardwood forest reserves since they own most sawmills, with their relatives fronting for them,” Owen Dliwayo, a civil society activist based in Chipinge, an eastern border town of Zimbabwe, told IPS.

“For all the forests that politicians plunder, they don’t pay a cent to council authorities and truly how do people get motivated to play a part in conserving hardwood forests?” Dliwayo asked.

“We will only manage to fight deforestation if government brings electricity to our doorsteps because without electricity we will keep cutting down trees for firewood,” said Chikono.


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