Farmers endorse sustainable afforestation programme

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Tobacco farmers from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa met in Harare, Zimbabwe, over the past three days at the annual Africa Regional meeting to discuss issues including matters of reforestation.

Francois van der Merwe - ITGA President

Francois van der Merwe – ITGA President

Representatives of tobacco growers from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa together with representatives of the International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) expressed support for initiatives such as the Sustainable Afforestation Association (SAA).

SAA Chief Executive Officer Maggie Okore addressed the regional members and said that SAA played an important part in the green revolution in Zimbabwe by promoting sustainable fuel use in the tobacco industry.

SAA has focused on four high-volume tobacco-producing provinces and in the 2013/14 season 600ha were planted with 2 200 trees per ha. “Our target is to establish up to 4 500 hectares of trees annually,” said Ms Okore. “This will be expanded to the small scale sector as the programme progresses.”

Currently, SAA is working with land owners who farm a minimum of 100ha. It meets all the establishment and silviculture costs and shares the harvested product with land owner.

Ms Okore said the SAA model meant sustainable, large-scale forestry was viable. “The model is founded on inclusiveness – where communities, schools, churches, government bodies and private individuals participate actively in the processes – they take ownership of the programme.”

SAA’s target for the next ten years is to establish 36 000ha of forests. The programme also has the support of many of the multinational cigarette manufacturers who have indicated that they would like to purchase from suppliers with tobacco cured using a “renewable source of energy”.

ITGA Global President Francois van der Merwe said that it recognized that deforestation was a problem. “We have actively engaged with stakeholders on this matter – which we acknowledge is prevalent – not only in Zimbabwe but in all affected countries. We whole-heartedly support initiatives such as we see with SAA and others in finding sustainable solutions to this problem.”

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