We had a collective moment of mourning today. It was almost an outburst the people from Murewa virtually engaged, analysed and lamented on the scale and magnitude of deforestation on social media. It was a simple photo I took a year back in Magaya, that triggered the outpouring. The place could be have been kwa Dandara, Chitowa, Chemapango, Maponongwe or Mutize, anywhere in Murewa.
All the forests are gone. It’s a struggle to get firewood. It’s just difficult for those who have no fence and use logs and shrubs to fence of their gardens, and protect the vegetables from roaming goats and cattle. All the indigenous fruit trees like matamba, hacha, nhengeni and even mazhanje are becoming a rarity.
Now we understand even much more the link between alternative energy sources; protection of the environment, and poverty. We understand these are key elements of what is called sustainable development!
In analysing the deforestation in Murewa, the following reasons were advanced as causing this sorry state of affairs:
- Fuel for daily household consumption. This is firewood for cooking or for brewing traditional brew. There is no electricity or any other energy source. People have no choice at all at all, and yet the family must eat every day, three times if food is available. Saka tobika nei?
- Tobacco growing has increased in the district, and loads and loads of firewood is used for curing the golden leaf. It’s a fast cash crop that is more and more replacing maize. The farmers have no money to buy coal nor use any other technology as an alternative. Now all the big trees that had remained are facing the axe. Demo rapedza masango.
- Brick making. Well, when people are just so poor they look for all kinds of projects to make a living. Brickmaking is a fairly lucrative business though it can be seasonal in Murewa. All the same, the kiln burns logs and logs. In the process more trees again face the axe with no replacement.
- Land pressure with increased population. It was a big point raised that the population is increasing and at times vana Sabhuku are receiving and settling in families in already over populated villages. The land pressure increases, more gardens, more firewood is needed, more brickmaking kilns and maybe more tobacco farmers.
In all it was a clear combination of poverty, lack of alternative energy sources and appropriate management of the natural resources. Well, solutions are at hand. It’s doable to take small steps as household level and by individuals and schools to again replenish the lost trees; such as communal tree planting, family plots and orchard etc.
Beyond environmental awareness and community action, it was also clear that there has to be some national and policy level interventions and resourcing if this situation is to be arrested before it is a national catastrophe.
Our Murewa debate and experiences, just reminded me in so many ways why sustainable development is critical to the on-going debates on the post 2015 development agenda. My mind went to the many women and girls, in Murewa including my own experience growing up in Magaya village. I need not say, why a clear commitment to gender equality in development is important and especially an investment in young people.
I acknowledge the contributions and views from: Chido Mubika; Tambu Marimo; Lawrence Chikwanha; Robson Chiwara; Margret Chibanda; Patricia Douglas; Tendai Manyange; Lawrence Madzimbamuto; Dialogue Kubvoruno and Gloria Linda Chiweshe.