The failure to curb charcoal burning is behind Zambia’s rapid deforestation, says a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) consultant.
Makweti Sishekanu says Zambia has effective legislation but dismally fails to mobilise communities against charcoal burning, the main cause of deforestation.
“We can no longer cite legal hindrance as the major failure to manage unprecedented rates of deforestation,” says Sishekanu.
Zambia has 44.6 million ha of indigenous forest, about 60% of the total land area. Data by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) shows the country is losing forests at a rate of 250 000 ha per year.
According to Sishekanu, it is possible to regulate charcoal production by targeting individual producers or groups.
“As such, the nation’s failure will no longer be in the law but in failing to respond to the spirit of the law,” he says.
Sishekanu says unlike preceding legislation, the 2015 Forest Act does more to protect trees from utilitarian and instrumental human action like charcoal burning.
He says deforestation can no longer be dealt with as a technical issue. Communities and individuals must understand that while it take a few hours to burn charcoal, it takes years for a single tree to grow.
It also places a burden on consumers not to buy products coming from cleared forests.