by BERNARD CHIKETO
GOVERNMENT is lining up legislation to compel timber producers to mandatorily plant harvested areas within two years.
This comes as most commercial timber plantations are increasingly barren and aggressive invasive species like south American native plant vernonanthura polyanthes are colonizing huge swaths of land across the eastern highlands.
Focus on logging mature forests without replanting will also lead to a future crisis of timber shortages leading government to move to compel timber producers to balance its activities between planting and harvesting.
A Forestry Commission senior staffer Aaron Chinofunga told a Misa Zimbabwe funded Green Governance forest management workshop in Mutare this week that the legal instrument is only being delayed to pass through parliament by Covid-19 disruptions.
“There is a statutory instrument that is waiting parliament approval to compel companies to replant within two years of cutting down trees.
“The process is only being delayed by Covid-19 disruption of parliament business,” Chinofunga said.
He said the aggressive vernonanthura polyanthes was however awakening timber producers to the benefits of replanting as it is gaining notoriety for its difficulty in managing.
“If you go to Chimanimani you will realise that there is a weed that is taking over. Timber companies now see the benefit of planting trees after harvesting,” Chinofunga said.
The Bolivia and Brazil native plant is however still to be officially declared invasive 20 years after it was first observed by locals.
It has since naturalized and established itself to the dismay of timber producers and communal farmers.
The plant was allowed to take root across the Mozambican border due to government indifference.
Completely oblivious to the spread of plants during such freak weather events, no monitoring was ever done of the affected region after the 2000 tropical cyclone Eline which brought it in.
Locals only later began to notice it for its pervasive presence when it was encroaching on community grazing lands and fields.
Commercial timber plantations who were hardly in control of their estates after thousands of illegal settlers annexed thousands of hectares and disrupted their effective management only realised that they had a huge problem on their hands when it was too late to fight it off.
Worse still, they had no clue what it was or how to contain it as it would sprout back with more shootings if cut back unlike most of the indigenous weeds they had been dealing with.
To date no effective containment strategy exists on its effective management.