Zambia risks turning into a desert

Zambia has been ranked among the top ten countries in the world that are heavily contributing to the production of greenhouse gases emissions as a result of deforestation and is at the risk of turning into a desert in the next 15 years, the Global Climate Change Initiative and the United States Agency for International Development (UAIAD) have warned.

Zambia has joined the countries that are currently contributing heavily to global warming which is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the world because of deforestation and land degradation.

The USAID and Global Climate Change Economic Growth team leader Anna Toness said with almost 80 percent of Zambia’s rural poor population largely depending on wood fuel, the country was deforesting about 300 000 hectares of land annually which had ranked her the top ten in the world.

Zambia has about 50 million hectares of forests out of which 300 000 hectares was getting deforested annually.

Dr Toness has warned that if the trend of deforesting 300 000 hectares of land every year, the country would have no forests in the next 15 years.

Dr Toness told journalists at a media breakfast meeting at Southern Sun Hotel yesterday that there has been a huge demand from the growing urban population for charcoal which has been exacerbating deforestation in the country.

Zambia has however embarked on a campaign to stop deforestation through a global programme dabbed Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a system that has been created to conserve their forests.

Dr Toness said if the world needed trees, those countries that have trees and were making efforts to conserve them would be rewarded while the organizations and countries that were contributing to global warming and emissions would be expected to pay to mitigate the damage that had been caused as a result of greenhouse emissions.

“Zambia is contributing heavily to causing global warming. One of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the world is deforestation and land degradation and climate change cannot be tackled without addressing deforestation and land degradation. Unfortunately Zambia is cutting down at least 300 00 hectares each year and it is in the top ten countries in the world for producing emissions from deforestation. If this rate continues, Zambia will have no forests in fifteen years,” Dr Toness said.

And Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) director Louis Verchot said while the forests were an important economic value to the rural poor communities, there was need to seriously conserve them if the effects of global warming were to be mitigated.

Dr Verchot said over two billon people globally were depending on forests for their livelihood adding CIFOR had shown that deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries contributed to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere globally.

Dr Verchot explained that there was need to invest in political legitimacy so that governments avoided the temptation of misappropriation funds from the REDD+.

Meanwhile, Nyimba Forest Project leader Davison Gumbo said Zambia’s forests were under siege because of fires, agricultural expansions and charcoal production.

Dr Gumbo said with most of the rural population depending on forests for their livelihoods and some obtaining as much as 30 percent of their annual incomes from the forests, it was important to have viable information on the state of the forests to rural communities.

Dr Gumbo said the $3.1 million USAID funded Nyimba Forest Project which was conceptualized in early 2012 was designed primarily to compliment the Zambian government in dealing with deforestation and degradation.