Global warming is disrupting our climate. Such changing conditions are already having dire consequences.
Our Acting Online Editor Phillimon Mhlanga (PM) speaks to Nyaradzo Group’s Friends of the Environment (FOTE) Administration Manager, Patience Fusire (PF) on this, the group’s modest plan to partner some of Zimbabwe’s corporate behemoths to grow, restore and conserve 500m trees in a bid to restore biodiversity and help fight climate change and other issues.
Below are excerpts
PM: How is FOTE progressing?
PF: Our target is to plant 500 million trees by the year 2026. Initially, we wanted these trees to be planted in Zimbabwe only but we have realised that our initiative can spread beyond Zimbabwe’s borders.
We have since established partnerships outside Zimbabwe.
For example, when we had our walkathon in 2015 from Bulawayo to Plumtree, we crossed over to Botswana and we planted some trees there.
Before then, we had visited Masunga province in Botswana for interactions and another tree planting excursion.
After successfully establishing an orchard at Mashambanzou Care Trust in partnership with the Namibian Embassy, we are now planning to plant trees in Namibia.
A site was identified where we can work with a women’s group there and the Namibian Embassy in Zimbabwe.
There is also something happening behind the scenes as far as other countries are concerned.
PM: How far are you from hitting the 500m trees target?
PF: Where we have direct influence, we have planted 32m trees to date.
However, you find that there are some individuals and institutions who have been influenced by our initiative, and are now also planting trees without our involvement.
Their figures are not contributing to the overall number of 32m so far.
PM: What motivated you to come up with the FOTE initiative?
PF: The idea came about after the Forestry Commission in 2010 released statistics that Zimbabwe was losing about 330,000 hectares of forest annually for different reasons.
As you might be aware, this initiative is a Nyaradzo enterprise whereby the company’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Phillip Mataranyika and his team felt the need to contribute towards restoration of forests in the country as Corporate Social Investment.
Initially, in July 2010, Nyaradzo introduced the “a tree with every burial” concept which is still on going.
While this was Nyaradzo’s contribution towards fighting against deforestation, when looking at the number of burials the company would undertake in a year, the contribution seemed insignificant in relation to the rate of deforestation.
So, the bigger picture was to contribute towards mitigation of climate change and global warming in a holistic way.
The deforestation taking place in Zimbabwe is contributing towards climate change and global warming.
We then decided to invite other corporate organisations to come on board so that FOTE would be bigger and have more environmental likeminds working together to fight deforestation and ultimately mitigate climate change and global warming.
Hence, in November 2010, that’s when the FOTE Trust was registered.
PM: Who are your partners?
PF: FOTE partners can be put in two major categories.
There are those who have funded the establishment of tree seedling nurseries.
Then there is another group of partners who contribute towards the success of our walkathons.
So, looking at that I can say in terms of nursery establishment, we have OK Zimbabwe Ltd, Old Mutual, Zimplats, Standard Chartered Bank, Mimosa Mining Company, Lafarge, THI Insurance, Chandiwana Memorial Foundation, Fossil Contracting as partners and Nyaradzo of course.
Then we have a lot more who are contributing to the success of the FOTE walkathons but do not have nurseries.
You will, however, also find that the first tier of partners who have sponsored nurseries, most of them also fund the walkathon.
PM: How many nurseries do you have now?
PF: In total, we now have 30 tree seedling nurseries across the country.
PM: How concerned or unconcerned are you about deforestation caused by tobacco curing which is now becoming a major threat to forests, especially in Mashonaland region?
PF: That’s an interesting question. When we started, our thrust was just re-greening Zimbabwe in general.
But then, we realised that in areas like Matabeleland North and South, there isn’t much deforestation. However, the Mashonaland region and parts of Manicaland as well as Masvingo are involved in tobacco farming with Mashonaland Provinces leading the pack.
Apparently, that’s where we have the most number of nurseries.
I guess, this to an extent is addressing deforestation that is taking place in those areas.
However, in this economic environment, you cannot stop people from producing tobacco because it’s a major foreign currency earner and besides it earns money for the households.
But, when it comes to tobacco curing that’s where the challenge is. Instead of discouraging people or stopping them from cutting down trees, it is it’s better to find an amicable way of working together with them and this is through tree planting.
Before, most of the farmers were using coal for tobacco curing.
But, the cost of transporting coal from Hwange to where ever they are is now beyond most of the farmers reach.
So, it’s always easy for them to just go into the nearest bush and harvest trees for tobacco curing.
PM: Turning to your flagship annual event, the FOTE walkathon. What are the plans this year?
PF: Our plans for the 2020 Walkathon are on course and will be divulged once we have finalised details with the sponsor.
What happens is, we have one sponsor who we refer as the “anchor sponsor”.
Every year, we identify an anchor sponsor, who will then establish a tree seedling nursery in the destination area of the walkathon.
So, those engagements are still ongoing.
But, be rest assured, the walkathon will definitely take place this year.
PM: The impact of climate change and global warming is devastating. What’s your reaction to this?
PF: Global warming and climate change are real and to a larger extent we have started experiencing the effects of climate change and global warming closer home.
One of the examples is what happened in Chimanimani last year (Cyclone Idai).
Those are signs of global warming and climate change and some of the effects are the droughts which we can refer to as rampant now.
In prior years, droughts would happen once every 10 years or so, but now, they are a common feature and this leads to food insecurity.
So, if we don’t act now, it means soon we will be in a worse crisis.
The best is to play our part and contribute to the fight against global warming and climate change locally. This fight will surely have a global impact.
PM: This year, Nyaradzo, is celebrating 19 years, how are you going to celebrate this milestone?
PF: Yes, this is the last teenage year for Nyaradzo. I am not really in a position to speak for the group in terms of the plans.
However, in terms of the environment, we are going to commemorate the 19 years with some of our stakeholders by having a tree planting ceremony this March.
Nyaradzo was established in March 2001, and since 2015, we have commemorated our anniversary with some stakeholders across the country planting trees. To date we have held five such events.
So, this year, plans are under way to commemorate Nyaradzo’s 19th anniversary.
We hope to have confirmation from our major stakeholder who will then be hosting us and its most probably going to be in the Midlands Province.
The Midlands Province is more central, so we just thought of celebrating our last teenage year in the Midlands Province .