Wood poachers feel the heat

HARARE - The Sustainable Afforestation Association of Zimbabwe (Saaz) says it has teamed up with various stakeholders in an effort to combat rampant wood poaching in the country.

Zimbabwe loses 300 000 hectares — equivalent to an area three times the size of greater Harare — annually due to deforestation according to the Forestry Commission.

Andy Mills, the Saaz director, said his organisation is now working with the Forestry Commission, Rural District Councils and the Zimbabwe Republic Police to combat wood poaching in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Harare Provinces.

“Given the importance of trees, including eucalyptus, to the environment, conservationists and Saaz have been encouraging authorities to issue much stiffer penalties so that tree theft/wood poaching is viewed as serious an offence as stock theft,” he said.

Wood poachers — who usually cut down indigenous trees — have started to target young forests and woodlots being developed by Saaz. 

The forests are being planted to assist tobacco farmers with wood fuel to cure tobacco.

Traditional leaders in the Mashonaland provinces have lately been penalising people who cut down indigenous trees, which has now seen wood poachers targeting trees from eucalyptus woodlots.

Saaz has been using efficient theft preventative measures to ensure that wood poachers are punished and potential poachers are deterred form poaching.

According to SI 116 of 2012, (Control of Firewood, Timber and Forest Produce) Regulations, Section 3 (1), it is illegal to cut, transport or sell firewood, timber and forest produce without a valid licence. If one is caught contravening this law they will be liable for a fine and/or imprisonment.

Section 78 of the Forest Act states that any person who cuts, injures, destroys, collects, takes or removes any tree, timber or other forest produce who, without authority, in or on any State forest or private forest is guilty of an offence and liable to criminal prosecution.

In order to protect trees in the eucalyptus forests, the Saaz has deployed 68 guards at 59 different plantations that patrol the areas on foot and bicycles. 

The guards patrol in pairs and they go to homesteads bordering the plantations and in the vicinity of the plantations where they do impromptu inspections on barns to ensure that farmers are not cutting down trees without appropriate permits.

The guards also carry out awareness campaigns on the consequences of tree poaching.

“As soon as they find any cut poles in the respective plantations or suspicious poles in neighbouring homesteads or barns, the Saaz patrollers who are members of the ZRP Special Constabulary carry out immediate investigations” Shepherd Goto, a security officer with Saaz said.

“These officers are familiar with their respective areas and are well versed in gathering evidence and effecting arrests leading to criminal prosecutions.”

During the period September 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 a total of 19 cases were reported. Ten cases are still under investigation, four cases went to court and convictions secured whilst the remaining five cases are still pending trial at various magistrates’ courts.


Comments (1)

Thats a good idea but that org shouldn't associate itself with tobacco growers. Each farm has its own forests or where to get wood for tobacco curing. Baba Sikhohliwe can enter my farm premises to find wood or hunt umvundla to feed his family with my permission nobody else. I use military grade technology to track and remove poachers from my lands...only if they are doing serious harm to the environment and livestock. Plan B is the provision of alternative energy sources for the rural that are sustainable from solar plants to biomass and wind power. Baba Sikhohliwe , his family and 200 other villagers can get power off my grid free of charge. Tobacco farmers must come come up with methods of curing the cancer leaf that do not use wood.

Earl of Matopos - 26 January 2019

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