NKOMBO KACHEMBA, Kitwe
MORE than 39,000 people in Kitwe have encroached on land reserved for national forests in the district, making it difficult for the forestry department to curb the indiscriminate cutting down of trees.
Kitwe has four national forests – Ichimpe, Mwekera, Misaka and Karibu – which have all been encroached by an estimated 39,520 settlers who are clearing land for charcoal burning, farming and other economic activities.
Misaka has 30,000 settlers, Mwekera 8,000, Karibu 20 while 1,500 people have settled in Ichimpe forest.
Forestry department acting district forest officer John Yowela said in an interview in Kitwe yesterday that the forests in Kitwe are depleted due to encroachments.
“The indiscriminate cutting down of trees here in Kitwe is rampant. We have so many people that have encroached on our forests and they are really clearing the land. For example, in Misaka National Forest alone, we have over 30,000 settlers, which is not good for our forests,” Mr Yowela said.
He said the Forest department in Kitwe has since established a nursey for pines and eucalyptus trees to replenish the forests.
Mr Yowela said the department, with support of the Copperbelt Energy Corporation, has cultivated 280,000 trees in the nursery, which will be planted in the four forest reserves in Kitwe.
He said the department is also training people that are living near the forests in bee keeping to discourage them from engaging in charcoal burning.
Mr Yowela said so far four groups of people living near Misaka national forests have been trained in bee keeping to enable them to earn a livelihood.
He said government has also degazetted 6,348 hectares of the Mwekera national forest, which will be allocated to the 8,000 settlers.
Mr Yowela said the Forest Department is also conducting patrols to ensure that people comply with the Forest Act, which prohibits people from cutting down trees indiscriminately.