Timber industry vital to GDP contribution

12 Jul, 2019 - 00:07 0 Views
Timber industry vital to GDP contribution Prof Ncube

The ManicaPost

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Business Reporter
Zimbabwe is capable of increasing forest cover from 41 percent to beyond 46 percent or even 55 percent by 2030, a Forestry Commission research officer has said.

Speaking at a recent workshop, Forestry Commission research officer Mr Tatenda Gotore said there was need to increase GDP contribution from the sector as well as the number of people employed in that sector.

According to research, settlement expansion is behind most of the decline in forest resources in Zimbabwe, followed by agriculture expansion, firewood and tobacco curing.

For timber plantations in Manicaland, more than 40 000 hectares have been lost to illegal settlers over the past decade curtailing any moves to grow the sector by industry players.

The situation was exacerbated by the harsh effects of Cyclone Idai which destroyed a significant chunk of timber plantations in Chimanimani.

“Timber resources going down. We are likely to get deficit by 2025 to 2032. Probably with replanting activities, things might start to get back,but this is on an assumption that demand will be constant over the period. If our economy continues to grow then we are likely to have continued increase in demand,” he said.

However, the industry has in the past cited that the shortage of seedlings had become a major challenge drawing back on efforts to replenish the destroyed areas.

Forestry Commission supplies timber producers with the seedlings.

Mr Gotore said lack of adequate funding was contributing to the shortage in seedlings and said the commission was considering partnering with the producers to find solutions.

“Of late, we have been discussing with the timber industry trying to forge partnerships around them hosting some of the orchards because when we are talking of cost of production, we are also talking about cost of planting and nurturing those orchards.

“We were thinking that we might have an arrangement with the industry players in terms of hosting those orchards, they mentor and nurture them and then when we sell the seed to them, we do so at a subsidised price,” he said.

He said shortage of the preferred species by timber producers was also contributing to the problem.

“You find that there are relatively new species that the industry requires, like the pinustercuminii and the pinusmaximinnoi which in our seed supply orchards are still very young so we cannot meet the demand. But as the orchards grow, we will be able to supply enough seed. With the other traditional species, what we need is to replant and have some stocks in place which we can supply,” Mr Gotore said.

While the issue of hosting orchards is a medium to long term solution, could there be a more immediate solution?

Could technology be the saving grace for the forestry sector?

Mr Gotore says the Forestry Commission has considered this.

“We have also been considering technology in partnership with other institutions which will ensure that we propagate some of our materials for the industry. Some of these materials have to be propagated clonally but at the moment we don’t have capacity and we are looking forward to partnerships in the near future where we can have such equipment and facilities to supply genetically modified materials,” said Mr Gotore.

Timber Producers Federation Association chief executive Mr Darlington Duwa said sustainable management of forests would in the end save the day.

“We are supposed to manage our forests in a sustainable manner but over the past years we have had a lot of challenges where a lot of our plantations have been subjected to a lot of fire, a lot illegal activities taking place, theft of timber and coupled with years were the rate of replanting has been low. So we do have some gaps where we are going to experience shortage of timber. We can reduce the consumption of timber to allow those gaps to be closed,” he said.

He said degraded forests could be rehabilitated through various way.

“One of them being to encourage regeneration within those plantations, that is, we do not go there too frequently to harvest timber.

“We need to allow it to regenerate on its own. There are projects under the Climate Change fund that can be implemented to encourage the regeneration and regrowth of those areas,” he said.

He said there was need to come up with appropriate species for the various areas where there is land degradation

However, the problem of forest degradation is not within the timber industry alone, there is need to revive the natural forests as well.

Communities that have played a major role in the depleting the forests and landing the country in its present situation also have a role to play in reviving the forests.

The Forestry Commission embarked on a five-year Fruit tree planting programme in 2016 which is targeted at increasing the number of fruit trees in the country. The programme was basically looking at planting two million trees every year through Public Private Partnerships with players in the fruit processing industry.

“Communities have been feeling excluded from managing and benefiting from resources around them. it is a key aspect if we are to ensure that the resources remain there for the purposes of mitigating climate change,” Mr Gotore said.

He said there is also need to increase GDP contribution from the sector as well as the number of people employed in that sector.

According to research, settlement expansion is behind most of the decline in forest resources in Zimbabwe, followed by agriculture expansion, firewood and tobacco curing.

For timber plantations in Manicaland, more than 40 000 hectares have been lost to illegal settlers over the past decade curtailing any moves to grow the sector by industry players.

The situation was exacerbated by the harsh effects of Cyclone Idai which destroyed a significant chunk of timber plantations in Chimanimani.

“Timber resources going down. we are likely to get deficit by 2025 to 2032. Probably with replanting activities, things might start to get back,but this is on an assumption that demand will be constant over the period. If our economy continues to grow then we are likely to have continued increase in demand,” he said.

However, the industry has in the past cited that the shortage of seedlings had become a major challenge drawing back on efforts to replenish the destroyed areas.

Forestry Commission supplies timber producers with the seedlings.

Mr Gotore said lack of adequate funding was contributing to the shortage in seedlings and said the commission was considering partnering with the producers to find solutions.

“Of late, we have been discussing with the timber industry trying to forge partnerships around them hosting some of the orchards because when we are talking of cost of production, we are also talking about cost of planting and nurturing those orchards. We were thinking that we might have an arrangement with the industry players in terms of hosting those orchards, they mentor and nurture them and then when we sell the seed to them, we do so at a subsidised price,” he said.

He said shortage of the preferred species by timber producers was also contributing to the problem.

“You find that there are relatively new species that the industry requires, like the pinustercuminii and the pinusmaximinnoi which in our seed supply orchards are still very young so we cannot meet the demand.

“But as the orchards grow, we will be able to supply enough seed. With the other traditional species, what we need is to replant and have some stocks in place which we can supply,” Mr Gotore said.

While the issue of hosting orchards is a medium to long term solution, could there be a more immediate solution?

Could technology be the saving grace for the forestry sector?

Mr Gotore says the Forestry Commission has considered this.

“We have also been considering technology in partnership with other institutions which will ensure that we propagate some of our materials for the industry. Some of these materials have to be propagated clonally but at the moment we don’t have capacity and we are looking forward to partnerships in the near future where we can have such equipment and facilities to supply genetically modified materials,” said Mr Gotore.

Timber Producers Federation Association chief executive Mr Darlington Duwa said sustainable management of forests would in the end save the day.

“We are supposed to manage our forests in a sustainable manner but over the past years we have had a lot of challenges where a lot of our plantations have been subjected to a lot of fire, a lot illegal activities taking place, theft of timber and coupled with years were the rate of replanting has been low. So we do have some gaps where we are going to experience shortage of timber. We can reduce the consumption of timber to allow those gaps to be closed,” he said.

He said degraded forests could be rehabilitated through various way.

“One of them being to encourage regeneration within those plantations, that is, we do not go there too frequently to harvest timber. We need to allow it to regenerate on its own.

“There are projects under the Climate Change fund that can be implemented to encourage the regeneration and regrowth of those areas,” he said.

He said there was need to come up with appropriate species for the various areas where there is land degradation

However, the problem of forest degradation is not within the timber industry alone, there is need to revive the natural forests as well.

Communities that have played a major role in the depleting the forests and landing the country in its present situation also have a role to play in reviving the forests.

The Forestry Commission embarked on a five-year Fruit tree planting programme in 2016 which is targeted at increasing the number of fruit trees in the country.

The programme was basically looking at planting two million trees every year through Public Private Partnerships with players in the fruit processing industry.

“Communities have been feeling excluded from managing and benefiting from resources around them. it is a key aspect if we are to ensure that the resources remain there for the purposes of mitigating climate change,” Mr Gotore said.

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