Honourable Mangaliso Ndlovu, the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry has underscored the important role that forests play in promoting a green economy to foster sustainable development.
He made the remarks today on the graduation ceremony at the Forestry Industry Training Centre following the successful completion of Forestry training by 35 men and women who have been certified by the Faculty as qualifying to receive certificates and diplomas.
Graduation is one of the most remarkable occasions in the annual cycle of events of any training institution. The minister hailed the successful completion of training by the 26 men and 9 women from the Forest Industries Training Centre/Zimbabwe College of Forestry and said the graduation marks another milestone for the nation’s economic development.
“I emphasize my gratitude to Forestry Commission for inviting me. I want to challenge the Forest colleges to strive for gender balance in our enrolment. We celebrate today’s graduation under the theme ‘Promoting a green economy through Forestry training’ which is quite a befitting one in the current economic environment. As the formal job market dwindles and the small-scale entrepreneurs get established in large numbers, appropriate training is required to arm them with green skills. A green economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcity,” Minister Ndlovu said.
He underscored the fact that a green economy requires stakeholders to conserve resources, reduce consumption, reduce waste and pollution, protect the earth’s ecological balance and conserve energy.
The importance of forests cannot be overemphasized. More than 70 percent of people in Africa live in rural areas and depend much on forestry resources for some part of their livelihood. Zimbabwe’s forest resources also contribute about three to four percent of the gross domestic product.
Other than the direct benefits from forest products, forests also play a very important role in the regulation of climate. It is estimated that approximately 260 000 hectares of forests are lost annually in Zimbabwe. The minister said this rate of destruction has to be arrested as a matter of urgency because it poses a serious threat to global environmental health and to the well-being of communities that are dependent on forests. The main causes of this deforestation include logging, fuelwood harvesting, unsustainable agricultural activities, mining, urbanization, timber production, and forest fires.
Notable effects of a degraded environment are depleted resources including minerals, flora, and fauna; formation of gullies due to uncontrolled levels of soil erosion; high levels of siltation in rivers and major dams; and low water tables. Despite these, the minister bemoaned the continued use of unsustainable practices.
He said training is one of the key instruments that can change people’s behaviour. The minister expressed gratitude to the fact that the Forestry Colleges provide environmental education to communities in set-ups such as field days, clean-up campaigns, fire meetings and agricultural shows. The curriculum is constantly reviewed to address emerging environmental challenges. Minister Ndlovu called upon all other stakeholders to join hands with the Forestry Colleges in their efforts to promote a green economy.
Climate change is another threat to a green economy. Hon Ndlovu said if the destruction of forests continues and benefits from them are lost, the climate will change faster, with the following consequences, among others:
- Higher than normal temperatures each year
- Unpredictable weather patterns
- More frequent occurrences of floods/droughts
- The decline in numbers of tree and animal species
- The emergence of new diseases
With climate change comes the experience of more frequent extreme weather patterns.
Minister Ndlovu said the knowledge gap in our society can be addressed by training. Training should include competencies in the effective use of modern technologies, the ability to cope with the impacts of climate change, with greater emphasis on prevention, than control. He appealed to the Timber Industry and other stakeholders to help capacitate the Forestry Colleges with the appropriate technologies so that they strengthen their training efforts.
He said there is a need to bring down to zero the deforestation rate highlighted above.
“By protecting forests, we are also complementing our National Development Strategy which should position us on the right trajectory to contribute towards the attainment of Vision 2030. Everyone has a role to play.
“Efforts of the Second Republic to create employment can be seen in all sectors of the economy. In Forestry, we now see our youths running enterprises in the areas such as nursery, silviculture, harvesting, pole-making, milling, and others which used to be a preserve for the large companies. These new entrants into the Forestry Industry definitely need some training so that their operations are green. In addition, the composition of the Forestry workforce and occupational profiles within it are also changing constantly due to evolving technology and management requirements, creating more gaps in competencies of personnel and more need for training. Colleges need to move with these changes identifying these gaps and taking swift action.”
The Forestry Colleges encountered a number of challenges along the course of the year. For the greater part of last year till mid-March this year, the country had two lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No one was spared by this development. Some businesses, locally and abroad even collapsed.
“However, behind this challenge, it’s true to the old adage that every cloud has a silver lining, I see opportunities for the Forestry Colleges. For instance, large numbers of students can now be trained at a lower cost by the E-learning mode than by the face-to-face mode. The practical component could then be scheduled for execution when the situation allows. I know that setting up a powerful and effective Internet system for a vibrant E-learning system requires considerable investment for a small institution such as the Forestry Colleges. I, therefore, call upon the stakeholders of the Forestry Colleges to join hands in setting up this powerful Internet system and related infrastructure to enable effective E-Learning.”
Minister Ndlovu said the partnership that exists with Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) needs to be strengthened by, upgrading the qualifications of College staff, increasing the intensity of research, boosting the Internet infrastructure, and digitizing the library, among others.