Wood poachers feel the heat

Source: Wood poachers feel the heat – DailyNews Live

BUSINESS WRITER      23 January 2019

HARARE – The Sustainable Afforestation Association of Zimbabwe (Saaz) says
it has teamed up with various stakeholders in an effort to combat rampant
wood poaching in the country.

Zimbabwe loses 300 000 hectares – equivalent to an area three times the
size of greater Harare – annually due to deforestation according to the
Forestry Commission.

Andy Mills, the Saaz director, said his organisation is now working with
the Forestry Commission, Rural District Councils and the Zimbabwe Republic
Police to combat wood poaching in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East,
Mashonaland West and Harare Provinces.

“Given the importance of trees, including eucalyptus, to the environment,
conservationists and Saaz have been encouraging authorities to issue much
stiffer penalties so that tree theft/wood poaching is viewed as serious an
offence as stock theft,” he said.

Wood poachers – who usually cut down indigenous trees – have started to
target young forests and woodlots being developed by Saaz.

The forests are being planted to assist tobacco farmers with wood fuel to
cure tobacco.

Traditional leaders in the Mashonaland provinces have lately been
penalising people who cut down indigenous trees, which has now seen wood
poachers targeting trees from eucalyptus woodlots.

Saaz has been using efficient theft preventative measures to ensure that
wood poachers are punished and potential poachers are deterred form
poaching.

According to SI 116 of 2012, (Control of Firewood, Timber and Forest
Produce) Regulations, Section 3 (1), it is illegal to cut, transport or
sell firewood, timber and forest produce without a valid licence. If one
is caught contravening this law they will be liable for a fine and/or
imprisonment.

Section 78 of the Forest Act states that any person who cuts, injures,
destroys, collects, takes or removes any tree, timber or other forest
produce who, without authority, in or on any State forest or private
forest is guilty of an offence and liable to criminal prosecution.

In order to protect trees in the eucalyptus forests, the Saaz has deployed
68 guards at 59 different plantations that patrol the areas on foot and
bicycles.

The guards patrol in pairs and they go to homesteads bordering the
plantations and in the vicinity of the plantations where they do impromptu
inspections on barns to ensure that farmers are not cutting down trees
without appropriate permits.

The guards also carry out awareness campaigns on the consequences of tree
poaching.

“As soon as they find any cut poles in the respective plantations or
suspicious poles in neighbouring homesteads or barns, the Saaz patrollers
who are members of the ZRP Special Constabulary carry out immediate
investigations” Shepherd Goto, a security officer with Saaz said.

“These officers are familiar with their respective areas and are well
versed in gathering evidence and effecting arrests leading to criminal
prosecutions.”

During the period September 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 a total of 19
cases were reported. Ten cases are still under investigation, four cases
went to court and convictions secured whilst the remaining five cases are
still pending trial at various magistrates’ courts.

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