BUTTYSON KANDIMBA, Solwezi
THE Zambia National Farmers Union has welcomed First Quantum Minerals call to stop the uncontrolled burning of Zambia’s forest and bushland.
The mining giant is spearheading a campaign to enforce a ban on the burning of vegetation, which is damaging Zambia’s forests, particularly the miombo woodland that is vital for maintaining ecological balance and environmental sustainability.
“Even in modern agriculture, uncontrolled burning causes stress on the ecosystem. There is need to promote agroforestry, where we have agriculture alongside maintaining the forests, as well as practising agriculture that does not disturb the environment,” ZNFU media and public relations manager Calvin Kaleyi has said.
Mr Kaleyi’s comments came after First Quantum Minerals director of operations Matt Pascall called for the burning of vegetation to stop and highlighted the damage done to people’s health and livelihoods by the negative practice.
FQM has pledged to work with various stakeholders to introduce holistic management of forests to increase the productivity of the cropland soil, maximise forage production, enhance organisational capacity and management of the communities, all by using sustainable agricultural practices.
The main objective of the anti-burning campaign is to promote sustainable agricultural and forestry practices in Zambia.
Mr Kaleyi said the ZNFU has welcomed the strategy by FQM to launch the campaign.
“So, all these strategies that are being promoted are welcomed by the Zambia National Farmers. They are the best ways to keep the ecosystem in balance. Even our farmers, those that are into tobacco production, there is a lot of cutting down of trees that is involved, we always tell them that where ‘if you are going to cut trees, ensure that you plant more trees’,” Mr Kaleyi said.
Studies have revealed that Zambia’s deforestation rate stands at between 250,000 to 300,000 hectares of land per year. It is amongst the highest in the world.
Initiatives show how efforts to preserve forests are bearing fruit and helping villagers make a living while preserving the environment.
“The rate at which trees were being cut down is 250,000 hectares per year. That is a lot. What are we going to remain with if we continue cutting down trees at this rate? We need to put in place measures that promote the planting of trees, responsible agriculture, promote agroforestry,” Mr Kaleyi said.
Mr Kaleyi called on all mining firms to promote the planting of trees as part of their corporate social responsibility plans.
“Responsible mines, have been doing it, as they know that they are cutting down a lot of trees; they have been promoting the planting of trees; they have been promoting issues to do with conservation farming. If you look at the mines in North-Western Province, they have been promoting agroforestry. And those are the responsible kind of mines that we want to see, where they are not only interested in making profits, but they also have a corporate social responsibility to ensure that the environment is kept well. We commend the mines that are promoting agriculture,” he said.
BUTTYSON KANDIMBA, Solwezi