Zimbabwe: Tobacco Boom v Deforestation
Tobacco remains a very important revenue earner for Zimbabwe, but the crop is an environmental menace. The processes under which it is produced have docked 15 percent or 7,5 million trees from national forests per year in recent years. That’s a monumental environmental catastrophe, by any measure; particularly given Zimbabwe is planting an inadequate 2,5 million trees more each year, under the Forestry Commission. The costs of replacing the 7,5 million trees destroyed by tobacco each year tops US$22,5 million, if those trees are indigenous, barring other overheads such transport, labour, etc.
Now, the magnet of foreign currency has drawn 28 000 new farmers to tobacco in 2013, according to latest data from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, pulling farmers even from previously unsuitable non-tobacco growing regions such as Matabeleland. The growth escalates environmental risks.