Deforestation Problem Around Victoria Falls

 Bundles of wood being collected by residents to use as fuel for cooking causing deforestation

Anyone who lives in Victoria Falls is aware of the rampant deforestation that is threatening the environment around our City. We estimate 5 to 10 tonnes of wood is being collected per day. This is a sensitive issue that requires more thought than simply prohibiting the collection of wood.

The Problem

With the exorbitant cost of electricity and the lack of supply in certain areas, sectors of our community, in the high-density suburbs, are forced into finding alternative ways to cook their meals – free wood!

Large stash of wood at a resident's home

Until a solution is found to provide an alternative fuel source, it is hard to condemn the wood collectors for what they are doing to survive. The wood might be free but the ladies have to travel several kilometres through wild country, often facing many dangers.

The Possible Solution

Victoria Falls Environment Watch has been working for months now to find such a solution. There were long delays initially seeking the local authorities approval and support. VFEW’s aim is to tackle the problem on two fronts. Firstly to find an alternative source of fuel, that is sustainable. Secondly, it is to reduce the consumption of wood by introducing more efficient cooking methods.

VFEW has a tentative agreement with the Forestry Commission to collect timber from certain areas where the wood is lying in waste and rotting. This will be collected and sold to the ladies at a reasonable price.

Rocket stoves have been designed and are being manufactured now. These will be sold to the ladies as a more efficient form of cooking. Instead of using 3 to 4 logs of wood, only 3 to 4 sticks are required to cook the same meal.

The Meeting

First and foremost though, we needed to engage with the wood collecting ladies to establish trust and hear their concerns. Only then could we present some potential options. This meeting, arranged by councillor Edmore Zhou of ward 11 and Brian Nyabuno, VFEW’s trust manager, was held on Saturday 24th July in Mkhosana. Some of the photos can be seen below.

Meeting with residents to help solve the issue and introduce the rocket stove

The ladies were very responsive and have agreed to pursue the options VFEW has suggested, acknowledging that once an alternative is offered to them, and they then continue to collect wood from these areas, they will now be deemed poachers and will be subjected to the strong arm of the law.

The challenge now is that 10 000 stoves are required. The cost to manufacture a stove locally is US$10. Local manufacture has the added benefit of supporting local industry. VFEW has set up a GoFundMe Campaign to raise funds for this initiative, and is looking to anyone who has an interest in protecting the environment for future generations to support this initiative. No donation is too small.

Thank you for reading this far

Tony Peel

(Chairman VFEW)

Press coverage of the issue has been done by The Chronicle Zimbabwe - Enviro Watch In Drive To Reduce Firewood Consumption



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