Sawmillers call for investment in forestry sector 

 

By Nation Reporter

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu’s pledge that his Government will promote the development of agro-based industries will help industries such as the forestry sector to grow and earn the country foreign exchange, the Zambia National Association of Sawmillers (ZNAS) has observed.

ZNAS president William Bwalya said the agro-based industries such as forestry had the potential to grow if well-harnessed by coming up with initiatives that would enhance value addition.

He said value addition and would not only provide employment opportunities but would open up competitive and readily available market for Zambian timber and its products, thereby boosting foreign exchange.

Mr. Bwalya said President Lungu’s desire to industrialize the country would go a long way in job creation and turning raw materials into finished products which would in turn enhance the quality of products produced locally and curtail the exportation of job opportunities by exporting raw materials.

He observed that Zambia had less than 48,000 hectares of forests and that there was greater need to expand forest plantations to generate rural and peri-urban mass employment in nursery and forestry management, fire protection, harvesting and processing, research and development.

He said there was need for the country to promote sustainable forest management in its running of the forests, adding that sustainability had been a huge challenge and a major concern because the concept was usually interpreted differently by technocrats, stakeholders and policy makers.

He said President Lungu’s pledge to revitalise the agro-based industries will greatly supplement the new Forest Act no. 4 of 2015 which her said had created an environment for stakeholders, communities, chiefdoms and local authorities to invest in forestry plantations.

“It is welcome news from the Head of State that Government will promote the development of agro based industries where forestry is part because there is greater need to expand plantation forestry hectares to generate rural and peri-urban mass employment in nursery management, forestry management, fire protection, harvesting and processing, research and development.

“The new Forest Act no. 4 of 2015 has further created an environment for stakeholders, communities, chiefdoms and local authorities to invest in plantation establishment. This gives hope to the country especially that the focus would be to grow trees in deforested lands. The country needs to promote sustainable forest management in its running of the forests.

‘‘Sustained yield forestry has been a major concern in the country because the concept is usually interpreted differently by mostly the technocrats, stakeholders and policy makers, as a result we are experiencing a higher deforestation rate including investment in value addition,” Mr. Bwalya said.

He said sustained yield forestry was traditionally aimed at balancing the rate of wood harvesting with tree growth, adding that the country must stop believing in the assumption that sustained yield forestry was premised on the fact that forestry ecosystems could be sustainably done by relying on nature to renew the timber supply.

He disclosed that in the soft wood sector, wood harvesting waste from 2008 to 2016 stood at a glaring 5.9 million cubic metres of the round wood harvested from ZAFFICO Plantations by MSME’s across the Copperbelt Province only.

He further said the harvesting and processing waste was worsened by the lack of investment in Value Adding Projects (VAPs) such as the use of both harvesting and processing residues into saleable lumber products such as cooking and heating energy.

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