MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka
DEFORESTATION has for a long time been discouraged because of its effects on the climate world over.
Some of the reasons that make people resort to deforestation range from using the trees to make charcoal, timber to creating grazing land for animals.
But deforestation has many negative effects on the environment as well as the loss of habitat for wild animals.
President Edgar Lungu also emphasised the need to preserve the environment during his inaugural speech on Tuesday.
â€œIt is now time for us to make concerted efforts at protecting, preserving and rehabilitating our countryâ€™s environment so as to systematically mitigate the effects of climate change and make our tourism industry more meaningful,â€ President Lungu said.
It is against this background that Tukwatankane Women Group of Mufumbwe district in North-Western Province has embarked on a project aimed at discouraging deforestation.
The group being led by village headman Fubisha is promoting the making of charcoal using residue or waste materials.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Mumba Mwansa, who is also the wife, headman Fubisha, explained that the project started in 2013, after realising that the cutting down of trees was negatively contributing to climate change.
â€œTrees help prolong the water cycle by retaining water vapour into the atmosphere. Without trees to perform such roles, forest lands can quickly become deserts and this may eventually have a negative impact on farming,â€ Ms Mwansa said.
The 41-year-old mother of six and her husband initiated this project three years ago after discovering that trees were being depleted in their area and that people had no regard for the environment.
It is interesting to note that the traditional method being used was initiated by the couple.
â€œThe method is very simple, we burn the waste materials, grind them and then make paste using cassava meal, then mix the ingredients and put them in the charcoal presser. The mixture is left in the sun to dry,â€ she explained.
Ms Mwansa and her husband, who spoke in separate interviews, are looking forward to a time when the country will plant more trees and avoid cutting them at all costs.
The couple is seeking a platform that will allow them to teach communities about the method and the benefits of using their type of charcoal.
â€œWe have shared this idea with people in the community. About 20 people have joined us and we would like as many people as possible to join the group,â€ Ms Mwansa said.
Among the success stories for the project include a trip to the United States of America when Ms Mwansa won the 2015 Women Expo Exhibition.
And it was during the same Women Expo Exhibition that Ms Mwansa got to interact with President Lungu for the first time, an experience that excited her.
â€œI was very humbled that President Lungu appreciated our project, he even promised to buy the group machines and a tractor to enable the business grow. I believe the President is a man of his word and he will surely fulfil his promise,â€ she said.
Ms Mwansa is again expected to travel to the US next month, this time to enrich her knowledge on how best to improve her initiative.
The group lacks machinery and is only dependent on a small charcoal presser to produce the commodities.
It is unfortunate that the small machine being used is time-consuming and labour- intensive.
â€œThe demand is high but the supply is low due to lack of machinery. We are appealing to Government to procure us machines so that we can increase production,â€ she said.
The group has also asked Government to procure solar panels to be used during the rainy season.
From the charcoal sales, the group is able to sustain their respective families.
The advantages of using the particular charcoal includes, long hours of cooking, cleanliness and cost effectiveness.
It is however disheartening that despite the labour intensity in producing the charcoal, marketing has been a problem because it is more expensive than the ordinary charcoal made from trees.
â€œThe commodity is expensive because it is produced in small quantities due to lack of machinery, and transportation to the market is costly,â€ she said.
The business was booming especially when the country was going through extended hours of load-shedding. However, they could not meet the high demand.
Meanwhile Richard Mafulo, a member of the group, is also appealing to Government and other cooperating partners to help them with mobility resources.
Mr Mafulo said the group intends to travel to various communities countrywide to educate people on the importance of preserving the environment.
He said Zambia can survive climate change effects if only people can appreciate other methods of making charcoal.
MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka