LUSAKA, June 11 - Zambia Leaf Tobacco Company has targeted planting about four million trees during the 2004/5 season in flue-cured Virginia tobacco area to slow down accelerating deforestation.
Managing director Phil Rusch said it had become clear that flue-cured Virginia wood requirements, particularly in the small scale areas were accelerating deforestation as growers were targeting existing woodlands for their fuel wood needs.
The company has since arranged a series of sensitisation workshops across the country in areas covering Kaoma, Mkushi, Kabwe, Chisamba and Choma.
Mr Rusch said the company had realised that if no remedial action was taken immediately, the scarcity of wood would negatively impact on the environment and the area planted for flue-cured Virginia.
Through the workshops, the company would introduce the farmers to a number of indigenous and naturalised fast growing tree species that could be used as fuel wood for curing tobacco.
"Zambia Leaf Tobacco will support the establishment of tree nurseries by individual growers to raise and plant trees for their crop flue-cured tobacco this coming growing season 2004/05," Mr Rusch said.
Tobacco Association of Zambia (TAZ) recently expressed concern at the level of deforestation in tobacco growing areas and appealed to Government to make available cheaper and reliable sources of coal for curing tobacco to slow down the rate of deforestation.
And the forest department has called for an urgent promotion and encouragement of efficient methods of charcoal production and utilisation.
This is because of the high rate at which forests are being exploited.
According to the forest sector status report obtained from the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, the timber was mostly exploited for railway sleepers, mining timber and furniture.
The report states that with the establishment of more industries and demand for exports, exploitation of timber tree species has continued to rise without any corresponding management of the resource.
The total annual charcoal consumption was currently estimated at about 600,000 tonnes.
That implied that about 2.6 million of cordwood is used annually making it among the highest contributors of deforestation.
With the increasing population and urban growth, the demand for charcoal as a source of energy has equally put a lot of pressure on the resource.
"Therefore there is urgent need to promote and encourage efficient methods of charcoal production and utilisation," the reports says.
The report recommended that in the long term, Government should encourage the private sector to invest into alternative energy sources such as solar and charcoal briquettes.