Forests of Matebeleland North Province, Zimbabwe


Indigenous hardwood forests in the Midlands and Matebeleland North provinces are part of the Kalahari sand region which extends into the Boatswana and Namibian arid regions. In Zimbabwe these two regions are home to very precious forests which comprise of teak (Baikiaea Plurijuga), mahogany (Guibortia coleosperma), mukwa (Pterocaspus angolensis) and other indigenous hardwoods such as wooden banana, Leadwood and white seringa (Kirkia Acuminata). Thousands of ZANU PF supporters invaded these forests during the land reform program between 2000 and 2007 and started logging the timber for curing tobacco or simply inviting international companies to come and log for a fee. Politicians in the region have also been fingered in the scandal which may be depriving the country of revenue in excess of 10 million dollars annually. It is estimated that Zimbabwe could be losing as much as 300 000 ha of indigenous hardwood forests annually. The situation is exacerbated by illegal settlers who often start veldt fires whilst on hunting expeditions. Some of the trees are sensitive to fires and have a slow recovery rate. Thus both government and the communities are losing out as international companies and corrupt individuals are benefiting from chaos.

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Basic Data
NameForests of Matebeleland North Province, Zimbabwe
ProvinceMatebeleland North and Midlands Provinces
SiteBinga, Bubi, Hwange, Nkayi, Tsholothso, Lupane and Umguza Districts and some parts of the Midlands Province
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific CommoditiesLand

Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAbout 300 000 ha are harvested annually earning the country about 15 million dollars
Project Area (in hectares)6000000
Level of Investment (in USD)Not known
Type of PopulationRural
Company Names or State EnterprisesPlatinum Timbers from Zimbabwe
Allied Timbers Zimbabwe from Zimbabwe - wholly owned by the Government of Zimbabwe,
Allied Timbers International from Zimbabwe
Allied Timbers Saligna from Zimbabwe
Altim City Zimbabwe from Zimbabwe
Altim City Botswana from Zimbabwe
Savanna Wood from Zimbabwe
Architectural Aluminium from Zimbabwe
Wood Industries from Zimbabwe
Hyde Park
Altim Timbers
Relevant government actorsThe Forestry Commissiion, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management, The Environment Management Agency, National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Lupane rural District Council, Tsholotsho Rural District Council and Gokwe Rural District Council
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCenter for Natural Resource Governance, Bulawayo Agenda
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Genetic contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesTo remedy this situation and to encourage community participation in the management and exploitation of the forests a Bulawayo based NGO has proposed the following:

Form a Community Trust that will represent all communities that live and work in the forest areas as well as provide income to the Forestry Commission and National Parks and Wildlife Management.

The Community Trust to enter into a long-term contract on behalf of all the indigenous communities involved which will allow the Trust to manage and exploit the resources of the Forests under the guidance and direction of the Forestry Commission and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management.

The Board of the Community Trust to be elected from all stakeholders.

Long term contracts for the exploitation for designated blocks of forest land will be entered into with commercial logging companies who will be contracted to cut and extract logs for sale to millers and processors at prices based on an agreed formula related to regional and world market values.

Long term contracts for the rights to hunt and conduct safari operations in forest areas.

Long term leases for lodges and other tourist related activities.

Agreements on the use of the revenues from these contracts – agreed payments to the Forestry Commission for research and management advice, payments to National Parks for Wildlife management and supervision, payments to the Trust for the purpose of supporting services to the Communities linked to the forests.

All people living and working in the forests will be organized into settlements on the edges of the forest areas with which they are associated and will benefit directly from the activity in the forest areas.

These communities will be required to carry out all silver culture activity as well as firebreak and road maintenance – for which services they will be paid by the Trust from the resources gained from the commercial activity in the forest blocks.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Environmental Justice is not being served here because the communities in these areas are not well organised to put up a serious challenge to government and the extracting firms and some are participating in illegal cutting of the hardwood and setting the forests on fire during hunting expeditions.
Sources and Materials

Parks and Wildlife Act (1975)

National Environmental policy (2003)(This Act has repealed)

The Natural Resources Act (Chapter 20:13),

The Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act

(Chapter 20:03),

The Hazardous Substances and Articles Act

(Chapter 15:05) and

The Noxious Weeds Act (Chapter 19:07).

The Act creates a framework for environmental

management, makes provision for the

formulation of environmental quality standards,

(e.g. air, water, noise, effluents, waste and

hazardous substances), and develops the National Environmental Action Plan

Rural District Councils Act


Hardwood Catastrophe: Plunder & Looting of Zimbabwe’s Priceless Forest – Who is eating the Liver?:
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Fao document Management Practices for the Protection of Forest Reserves

The Case of Kalahari Sand Teak Forest Reserves

in Western Zimbabwe


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Meta Information
ContributorFarai Maguwu
Last update24/06/2014