Posted with permission from allAfrica.com

Government has urged tobacco farmers to seek other sources of energy when curing their crops in order to preserve Zimbabwe's forests. The country loses at least 330 000 hectares of forests annually due to various activities, including agriculture, domestic firewood and land clearance.

Zimbabwe has more than 100 000 tobacco farmers who are significantly contributing to the country's loss of forests. In a interview with The Herald, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said the increase in tobacco production has unfortunately seen massive losses of indigenous forests.

"The number of small-scale tobacco farmers has grown exponentially this year. Flue-cured tobacco mainly requires energy for the intensive drying process. So the country is experiencing high rates of deforestation because farmers will be using firewood. There is also need for farmers to use other sources of energy such as solar, coal and biogas so that trees will not be cut extensively," she said.

Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said Government was working on plans that will limit the number of trees cut depending on the amount of crop to be cured per every farmer.

In July last year, tobacco farmers in Hurungwe benefited from the Friends of Environment nursery, which provided 75 000 seedlings. The nursery is targeting to plant more than a million trees by 2019 in the district.