Creeping Catastrophe

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A land laid bare by charcoal buners.
The environmentally detrimental search for is exemplified by the litter of make shift sales points for charcoal along main roads and the common sight of previously forest areas denuded of trees. This is often a night time trade, with charcoal burners’ bulk selling to long distant and cross border truck drivers. During the day, charcoal selling is done by children, who should be in school. The cutting down of trees, burning and packing of charcoal is left to elders, who should have more environment-friendly economic activities. This is the cause and effect of social values and community authority erosion, which result in disintegration of livelihood systems.

Careless environmental management strains natural resources, upon which rural communities are dependent, for food, energy and other means of livelihood. Land, water and forests resources are deteriorating as a result of various factors, including increasing frequency of alternating drought and flooding climate conditions. Government has failed to check regression in forestry husbandry, because charcoal burners and traders do not have economic alternatives. Traditional leaders, Government officers, secondary schools and community groups have been targeted for activities that curtail charcoal burning, in favour of economic agricultural and reforestation activities. This is to address the negative impacts of the creeping environmental and poverty socio-economic catastrophe.

The problem

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Truck drivers are the main buyers of charcoal .
 All along the trunk road (GNR) between Mpika through Nakonde, for every five hundred meters covered, one is sure of coming across bags of charcoal on sale on the roadside. The sellers mainly target Tanzanian truck drivers who reportedly buy commodity in truckloads and export it to their country where it fetches more money. Along the same stretch of the road, portions of land are annually cleared of trees which are burnt in order to grow food crops. It is believed that the resultant ash neutralisers the soil which are rather acidic and where this has been done, there is no need to apply chemical fertilisers as the soil is or become fertile. This is the traditional Chitemene system of agriculture. Of primary concern with the Chitemene system is the improper cutting of trees which impede timely recovery of affected trees.

The resultant effects of deforestation exert a considerable strain on Zambia’s status of natural resources. In general, and that of respective districts, in particular, and yet rural economies are almost entirely dependent on natural resources for both food and energy.
The above situation is evidence of the continuous and unwavering deforestation taking place in the said districts. It is rather surprising that even Government reserved forests have not been spared at all. The derivers of deforestation have been identified as poverty in rural areas coupled with lack of alternatives livelihood support mechanism.
It cannot be denied that rural communities rely heavily on their natural resources endowment. There is, however, a danger of depleting these resources at some point if the trend continues without any deliberate actions to protect and preserve this endowment for future generations. Communities need committed leadership to guide them to strike a balance between optimal use of natural resources and conservation of the same.