Vast tracks of land under forests are under threat in Zimbabwe from deforestation and land degradation. It is estimated that Zimbabwe is losing more than 300 000 hectares of trees (forest) per year largely due to deforestation. Agricultural expansion, driven by population growth, has also contributed to the deforestation, as new farmers tend to rely heavily on trees for firewood to cure tobacco. Depletion and loss of forest has become a major issue for climate change the world over contributing 15% of global greenhouse gas emission. Effects of climate are starting to be felt in Zimbabwe with prolonged dry seasons and floods affecting some parts of our low lying regions.
Zimbabwe has engaged several forest management initiatives targeted at protecting and rehabilitating existing forests. Among such projects is the recently piloted REDD+ initiative, which aims to build the capacity of local indigenous people so that they can effectively participate in managing forests under the REDD+ processes. A few selected areas in the Matebeleland North region have been running several pilot forest conservation projects under the REDD+ initiative in an effort to promote conservation of biodiversity.
REDD+ aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon. The initiative currently has 47 developing countries as selected participants and so far the project has been implemented in 18 African countries. Zimbabwe was recently selected to become a member of the REDD+ initiative under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
If managed properly the project is earmarked for huge financial incentives making good governance and accountability in managing the resources a priority. Recently Transparency International Zimbabwe hosted a workshop on mapping strategies on the elimination of corruption in the management of forests. The discussion noted that the only way to ensure transparency in the REDD+ initiative was through the provision of information to the community particularly on the sharing of benefits accrued from the project. Through information sharing, communities will not only know of their entitlement, but also the benefits to motivate them into forest protection and other areas, which they can participate in. Since the project would demand vast tracks of land, participants raised the issue of conflict relating to the land tenure system during the implementation of the project, sharing of benefits and protection of land rights for the local people.
Benefits from the REDD+ will be used in community development efforts in selected communities. So far Kariba and Binga districts have received farms inputs and irrigation systems as incentives from the projects.