Supporting good traditions
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CTA. 2002. Supporting good traditions. Rural Radio Resource Pack 02/3. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57350
Namo Chuma, of the NGO Environment Africa, explains how traditional arrangements have protected trees in Zimbabwe, and how a new piece of legislation could empower communities to protect their forests against illegal exploitation by commercial interests.
Supporting good traditions Cue: In many rural areas, forests and forest resources are protected by long-standing community traditions, which govern the times when people can harvest wood from the forest, and what types of tree can be used for which purposes. However these traditional arrangements are being increasingly threatened and when they fail, national or regional laws are often too weak to protect the forest. Our next report comes from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, an area where many trees are being cut to provide wood for the curio carving business. An NGO, Environment Africa has been working with local communities in the area, helping them to reach agreements on how to best use and protect their forest resources. Busani Bafana asked Namo Chuma about the management systems the communities had set up, and what effect a new Environmental Management Bill might have for natural resources management in Zimbabwe. The Bill, if it is passed, will hand over much more management responsibility and power to local people. Busani began by asking whether local communities really understood the concept of sustainable forest management. IN: ?The local communities do understand ? OUT: ? and re-green Zimbabwe.? DUR?N 4?48? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Busani Bafana calling on Zimbabweans to restore their lost forests. Transcript Chuma The local communities do understand the concept of sustainable utilisation of forests, but they understand it from a traditional perspective, from their cultural perspective. Bafana By ?cultural perspective?, what do you actually mean? Chuma I mean that the communities have set aside pieces of land or some forest, which are not accessed by members of the community during certain times of the year, like during the rainy season those areas are protected, and members of the communities are not allowed to go in there. They can only use those pieces of forest during the dry season. And also communities know which species of trees to harvest, and when to do it and how to do it. Bafana Would you say these efforts have yielded any great benefits? Chuma Yes I would say these efforts have actually yielded a lot of benefits to the communities themselves, particularly with certain species of trees which are protected in our traditional society. There are certain species of trees which we know, and when we grow up we are told you cannot use that piece of wood when you want to make fire, or you cannot use it when you want to build your homestead, and these trees have been protected. Bafana As far as protecting the forests, which are not only a source of various products, but also a source of livelihood, what local solutions have the communities that you work with come up with? Chuma Some communities have come together, and they have agreed that, when you want to go and harvest timber or wood in the forest, you are supposed to follow certain procedures. You are supposed to go through the head man, or through the kraal head, and only the kraal head can authorise the amount of wood that you are going to cut in that particular forest. And also, the head man, together with his community advisors, let communities know when certain forests will be open for them to go and cut wood for both carving and building their homes. Bafana What problems have you encountered as far as trying to help the local people utilise the principles of sustainable forest management? Chuma Yes, we have encountered some problems, particularly with people who want to go into commercial ventures using products from the forest in the communal lands. At the end of the day, you discover that the communities are not benefiting from these commercial ventures. It will be one or two people who are benefiting from these commercial ventures, and it becomes very difficult to control these people, because they don?t liase with the kraal heads, they don?t even have permits from the Hwange Rural District Council, which is the local authority in charge of these two wards where we are working. So we have had serious problems with such people. Bafana How do you think the government can support initiatives, such as those being implemented by Environment Africa? Chuma If you look at legislation at the moment, if you are found cutting down trees the fine that you have to pay is not deterrent enough. You cut down a ?mukwa? tree that took about fifty years to mature, and you are only asked to pay a fine of fifteen dollars. And I also believe that the government should provide the resources to communities, so that communities are empowered to manage the resources in their localities, instead of having extension workers managing forests on behalf of communities. Bafana What if at all will the impact of the Environmental Management Bill, if it is passed into law, have on sustainable management of forest by local people? Chuma We welcome the introduction of the Environmental Management Bill. We believe that the moment it becomes law, it is going to empower communities to manage their resources. In one of the sections of the Bill, it is stated that the communities are going to be given appropriate authority status. And the moment the communities get appropriate authority status, which means they have the mandate, they have the power to manage resources in their localities, by so doing we will be empowering the communities and they are going to be associated with those resources, because they have the mandate to manage them. Bafana And maybe just to round off, last month former South African president, Nelson Mandela, launched an initiative started by Environment Africa called ?Tree Africa?. What bearing does this have on the local efforts to manage forests? Chuma As Environment Africa we realised that we are losing a lot of trees, and at a very fast rate. So we launched a campaign in March which is called ?Tree Africa?. Our aim is to plant about five million trees in two years. So we are calling on every Zimbabwean to be part of this campaign. Bafana There you are, the campaign is on! Plant a tree and re-green Zimbabwe! End of track.