Tobacco is attracting more farmers with a 199 per cent increase of newly registered growers for the 2017/18 cropping season as compared to last year which is also a concern for the environment. The registration amounted to 21 331 compared to 7 131 during the same period the past year.
Although the cash crop has managed to become a competent source of foreign currency in the country, there have been concerns on the deforestation side.
The drying process for tobacco needs either wood or coal. Wood can be found faster in Zimbabwe as people cut down trees which lead to deforestation.
Coal is not readily available for farmers in Zimbabwe as it cannot be found in all parts of the country. The source of energy has to be bought and transported to the farmers for use. In such a circumstance the farmer is persuaded to use firewood which is illegally got by cutting down trees in most scenarios.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, Zimbabwe had lost an annual average of 327 000 hectares of forests by 2010 with Forestry Commission statistics of the same year showing that tobacco farmers were responsible for over 25 per cent of the loss. and statistics provided by the Forestry Commission show that tobacco farmers have been responsible for over 25% of the loss.
The following year, 2011, an estimate of 46 000 hectares of forest had been cleared and about 1,38 million cubic meters of firewood burnt to cure part of a 127 million kg of tobacco output.
The increase in the number of tobacco farmers then becomes worrying as it may translate to more trees being cut down.
The government has a role to play in protecting the environment. It may either limit the number of tobacco farmers or supply more coal to tobacco farmers.