Villagers in Chigodora, Mutare South, walk long distances in search of firewood following years of indiscriminate cutting down of trees. In some cases, firewood is no longer accessible at all due to the depletion of forests in Manicaland Province.
Local people complain that they are walking distances of up to 15 kilometers to fetch firewood for heating and cooking, among other domestic chores.
This is their only source of domestic energy in a community living in an area that has been reduced to dust bowls due to the indiscriminate cutting down of trees.
The only trees available in this area are mango trees found in almost every homestead. But they are not good sources of domestic energy.
A local woman, Juliet Zindoga, says they are facing serious problems in fetching firewood with most of them waking up early in the morning and walking long distances to look for firewood.
“The issue of firewood is stressful for the locals here. We leave home as a group and go far to get the firewood and normally we return late in the afternoon. Forests are very far away and there is another risk of abuse in the forests where we go,” said Zindoga.
Zindoga says they risk being arrested by officials of the Environmental Management Agency as they do not have proper papers for fetching firewood.
Another local resident, 15-year-old Catherine Musiyiwa, says it is a big challenge for girls of her age to travel long distances with a huge load on their heads.
“At the moment we travel very far for fetching firewood as all trees were decimated without anyone planting some here,” said Musiyiwa.
Another local person, Andrew Saburi, says all surrounding forests have been cleared owing to increased load shedding as locals look for alternative power sources.
Saburi said, “As trees are now scarce all around here we are now used to seeing women going far in search of firewood. Power cuts are now the order of the day here. These women risk their lives going where there are a lot of dangerous wild animals.”
Manicaland Provincial manager of Environment Africa, Lawrence Nyagwande, says his organization is operating in two districts, Chimanimani and Mutasa, which are the most affected by deforestation.
Chris Mushowe, the Manicaland Provincial Minister says he is saddened that the country is losing vast areas of forests with citizens failing to replace them.
Speaking at a recent exercise to redress deforestation in the affected areas, Mushowe said it was key to involve all local people.
The current programme to reclaim forests is being funded by the European Union and the Food and Agriculture Organisation in collaboration with the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.
The two organizations set aside about $5 million for the next five years to integrate agriculture with sustainable forest management and agro-forestry in an effort to increase and diversify sources of food and income for small scale farmers, thereby improving food security and food availability in Zimbabwe.
The districts that are involved include Chimanimani, and Mutasa -Manicaland, Hwedza and Mutoko - Mashonaland East, Lupane and Hwange Matabeleland North, then Bulilima and Matobo in Matabeleland South.