The national environmental body, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) will wage a robust war against illegal charcoal burners as it tightens controls to curb alarming deforestation.
But the move is likely to face opposition as charcoal is a major source of energy and income for many Zambians.
ZEMA’s Ireen Chipili says ‘indiscriminate’ charcoal burning should be tackled to halt rapid deforestation.
“It has a negative impact on the nation both in economic and environmental terms,” Chipili told local media at the weekend.
Zambia had 44.6 million hectares 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 the rate of 250 000 hectares per year.
Chipil urged communities to get involved in the fight against deforestation as they were the main beneficiaries. She says forests provided food and played a role in improving rainfall patterns.
But ZEMA’s plans received a lukewarm reception. People interviewed by africanfarming.com say erratic power supply and the fact that only 25% of Zambians are connected to electricity, forced them to resort to charcoal as a source of energy.
Data by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) shows the country is losing forests at the rate of 250 000 hectares per year.
Desmond Mweene of Chikankanta district in Southern Province, says charcoal is essential for the survival of his family. It is their only energy source.
Paul Lungu, a farmer of Shimabala in Kafue district in Lusaka province, says for 20 years charcoal burning supplemented his income to purchase farming inputs and meet other family expenses.
A forestry official who spoke on condition of anonymity says the restrictions are nothing new.
“It is not like this will be a new development. There are already laws to control charcoal burning, but it has been hard to enforce without finding alternative means for those engaged in the trade and users of the product,” he says.