Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 1992 which aim to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The Kyoto Protocol of 2007 gave birth to the Reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) which was transformed to REDD plus in December 2008. The Paris agreement of 2015 led to a new international climate agreement applicable to all countries and aim to keep global warming below 2o C in accordance with recommendations of the Inter- governmental panel on climate change (IPCC). The Government of Zimbabwe in its attempt to implement its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris agreement on climate change has identified several gaps in the forest sector which make it difficult for the country to compile the GHG inventory data and establish a forest reference emission level. One of the gaps that have been identified is lack of scientifically based quantitative information on the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in all the ecological regions of Zimbabwe. Between 1990 and 2000 Zimbabwe lost an average of 312,900 hectares of forest per year. This amounts to an average annual deforestation rate of 1.41 %. Between 2000 and 2005, the rate of forest change increased by 16.4% to 1.64% per annum. This loss of biodiversity can compromise the contributions of the indigenous forests to climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration affecting carbon and nitrogen cycles and livelihoods sustainability. Quantitative national-level information on drivers and activities causing deforestation and forest degradation in Zimbabwe are generally unknown. Moreover, UNFCCC 2009; 2010 have encouraged developing countries to identify land use, land use change and forestry activities, that are linked to the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and to assess their potential contribution to the mitigation of climate change. The identification and assessment of drivers of deforestation and land degradation at national level is also complementary to REDD+ related estimation and reporting using the IPCC Good Practice Guidance (IPCC, 2000). Understanding these drivers is essential in the development of policies and measures that aim to change current trends in forest activities toward a more climate and biodiversity friendly outcome for the nation.
The specific objectives of this study were to: i) determine deforestation and forest degradation hotspots in Zimbabwe, ii) determine the direct drivers and iii) indirect drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in deforestation hotspots. Deforestation and forest degradation hotspots were found to be common in all the provinces, mainly the rural, resettlement and peri-urban areas. The direct drivers of deforestation include Firewood, settlements, agriculture, wildfire, tobacco curing, charcoal, brick making, logging, overstocking, construction, mining and brushwood. The indirect drivers included socioeconomic factors, legal factors, tenure, climate change/environmental factors and politics. Settlement expansion, agriculture, mining and tobacco curing were the most common drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and the most difficult to address. Mining and agriculture are likely to remain important in the future because both are economic pillars of the country.
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