Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE expects to have a National Forest Policy by mid next year as the formulation process for the development of the document has started in earnest. Consultations on the National Forest Policy formulation process began last week with two meetings slated for small interest groups in Bulawayo and Lupane in Matabeleland North Province.

The meetings are aimed at soliciting for views from the Indigenous Hardwood Timber Association based in Bulawayo, which comprises of Timber loggers, manufactures, processors, Safari Operators, local authorities that have hard-woods in their districts, Forestry Commission officers and other stakeholders with timber production and processing at heart.

The second meeting was held at Lupane where farmers whose livelihoods depend on trees and forests, including their traditional leaders, will share their desires with the National Policy Formulation Working Group. “More consultative meetings will be held for the plantation timber industry in Manicaland, tobacco growers, vulnerable groups like children, women, the disabled and traders of wood and non-wood timber products in all the provinces of the country during the months of October to December, 2015.

“After these meetings have been held, we expect to come up with a zero draft that will then be discussed at a national conference for verification of issues raised,” Forestry Commission deputy general manager, Mr Abednigo Marufu said. “We all hope that by June 2016 at the latest, the National forest Policy formulation process will be complete and ready for the final launch,” he said.

Major issues to be addressed by the National Forest policy include; deforestation which threatens to decimate the forests of the country; limited participation of local communities; low value attached to forest resources; importance of forest ecosystems; climate change issues; reforestation programmes; commercialisation of non timber forest products; among others.

Currently Zimbabwe has no national forest policy although it has two major legal frameworks that govern the management and utilisation of forest resources, namely the Forest Act and the Communal Land Forest Produce Act. “This process hopes to come up with a National Forest Policy which will clearly define the country’s intentions on management, conservation and sustainable development of forests.

“The main objective of sustainable forest management is to move away from the fences and fortress approach which resulted in costly state control and management of forests towards more democratic approaches in which all stakeholders play an active role. “Sustainable forest management results in improved management of forestry resources; reduced conflicts and enhanced production of forest products,” he said.

Sustainable forest management is necessitated by the competing demands for forest products. These include commercial and subsistence demands like food, fuel and trade. If these competing demands are not managed sustainably, they can cause conflicts which result in forest loss and degradation, loss of national wealth and loss of livelihoods for communities that are directly dependent on forestry resources.