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D. P. Gwaze and C. Marunda
Forestry Commission,Zimbabwe


Forestry information was obtained from extensive literature on the extent of forest resources, ownership, species, composition, volumes, age, trade, consumption, value of forest products, projected demand and supply, and employment.

Information on plantations was adequate, but information about indigenous forests was inadequate and is unlikely to be obtained in the near future given the financial and methodological constraints. This lack of certain information on indigenous forests compromises the efficiency of planning and management of these forests. There is need to develop methodologies for collecting data particularly for non-wood forest products and provide adequate financial resources for collecting information on indigenous forests to improve planning and management of these forests. The FAO-EC Partnership Programme on "Data Collection and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management - Linking National and International Efforts" provides an opportune time for Zimbabwe to develop methodologies for collecting information on products from natural forests.


2.1. Location and area

Zimbabwe is a member of the ten SADC member states. It is a land-locked country bordered by Mozambique on the east, South Africa on the South, Botswana to the west and Zambia to the north. It is located between latitudes 16030' and 22030' S and longitudes 250 and 330 E.

Zimbabwe covers an area of 390,757 km2. One-fifth of the country is over 1,200 m (highveld), three-fifths between 600 and 1,200 m (middle veld) and one-fifth is below 600 m in altitude. Most of the country is subtropical except low-lying valleys which experience tropical conditions.

2.2 Population

The estimated population of Zimbabwe is 12 million. The population growth rate is 3.3% a year. The fertility rate is six children per family, causing a projected doubling of population every 20 years. Rapid population growth puts intense strain on natural resources. Table 1 shows the relationship between land area under different tenure categories, population density, farming potential and woodland area in the different tenure-systems in Zimbabwe. The table indicates that the majority of the population in Zimbabwe is rural and is concentrated in areas with poor farming potential and low woodland resources.

Zimbabwe's population density is 27 people per square kilometre. In comparison, the population density in Zambia is 113 and in Malawi 162 persons per square kilometre. Population growth in Zimbabwe is especially worrying considering the high pressure on forest resources.

Table 1. Relationships between population density, woodland cover and farming potential in the main land tenure categories of Zimbabwe.


Land tenure category


Communal land

Resettlement land

Commercial farms

State land

Land area

a) area(ha)

b)% of total land area

a) 16,360, 000

b) 42%

a) 3,790,000

b) 8%

a) 12,450,000

b) 31%

a) 6,970,000

b) 18%

Farming potential

natural regions

poor farm land 74% of the communal lands are under Natural regions IV and V

mixed spread over all Natural regions.

56% of resettlement land is in Natural Region II and III

good farm land, spread over all Natural Regions. 63% of land is under Natural Regions I and II

Poor farm land.

80% of state land is in Natural Regions IV and V.


a) total

b) density

c)% rural population

a) 5,352,304

b) 32 pers/km2

c) 74%

a) 426,687

b) 11 pers/km2

c) 6%

a) 1,346,753

b) 10 pers/km2

c) 19%

a) 38,806

b) < 2 pers/km2

c) < 1%

Woodland area

a) area (ha)

b)% of total woodland area

a) 10,000,000

b) 43%

a) n.a

b) n.a

a) 7,000,000

b) 30%

a) 6,000,000

b) 26%

2.3 Rainfall & temperature

The rainy season for most of Zimbabwe is from November to March, but along the eastern border rainfall also occurs at other times of the year. In general, rainfall increases from south to north and with increasing altitude. Areas in the low-veld receive less than 400 mm/year, while those in the eastern highlands more than 2,000 mm/year and those in the central watershed about 1,000 mm/year. Mean annual temperature is 150C at 1,800 mm, 180C at about 1400 m, 230C at 450 m above sea level. The highest temperatures are experienced in October and November, but when prolonged dry spell occurs, very high temperatures are recorded in December and January (450C has been recorded in low-lying areas). The temperatures are also influenced by soil type. Lowest temperatures are found in very sandy soils that cool more rapidly than clay soils.

2.4. Natural regions

Differences in rainfall patterns, altitude and temperature give rise to five agro-ecological regions:

Natural Region I is situated along the eastern highlands of the country and is defined as the specialised and diversified farming region. It has high effective rainfall and is thus suitable for afforestation using pines, eucalyptus, wattle, horticulture, tea and coffee plantations, and intensive livestock production.

Natural region II has reliable a rainfall pattern and is suitable for intensive crop (maize, tobacco and cotton) and livestock production. The region produces 90% of the country's crop.

Region III is a semi-intensive farming region receiving between 650 and 800 mm of rainfall per year, but the rainfall pattern is not reliable. Therefore, the region is suitable for livestock production and growing of short-season crops.

Region IV experiences fairly low total rainfall and is subject to periodic seasonal droughts and extended dry spells making the region unsuitable for cropping. Therefore appropriate systems in this region are based on livestock ranching and wildlife utilisation.

Region V represents the hot and dry areas below altitude of 900 m and follows the major river systems (Zambezi, Limpopo and Save). This is the extensive farming region and is suitable for livestock ranching and wildlife utilisation.

2.5. Macro economic policies

Zimbabwe's economic policies are based on the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP, 1991-1995) and Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (ZIMPREST, 1996 - 2000) which are supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The economic policies include tight fiscal controls, removal of subsides and opening up of foreign investment. One of the vehicles that the economic policies delivered is the Public Enterprise Reform. It is designed to reduce public enterprise reliance on taxes. Such enterprises were expected to operate more efficiently and effectively in the commercial environment using private sector measures and to encourage competition in the industry. The Forestry Commission being a public enterprise is being restructured in response to this policy. These policies have resulted in less budgetary allocations to government departments including those in the natural resources sector leading to inability of these respective departments to effectively regulate exploitation of natural resources.

For the natural resources sector (including forestry), ZIMPREST proposes the formation of an overarching policy which includes:

land reforms,

drought mitigation,

research and extension,

promotion of sustainable, balanced, utilisation of natural resources for economic and social development.

Zimbabwe's per capita income in 1996 was US$ 718, and it is likely to be much lower now due drastic devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar (exchange rate was Z$ 10 per US$ 1 in 1996 and in November 1998 it is Z$ 37 per US$ 1) and high inflation. Zimbabwe's economic structure is dominated by agriculture, manufacturing and service provision. Manufacturing contributes for 25% of GDP. Forestry for about 3%. The timber industry contributes 8% to the manufacturing value. Forestry contribution to the economy is largely based on the wood processing industry (plantations of exotic species, particularly pine and eucalyptus).

Natural resource conservation and use, at the provincial level, are coordinated by the Provincial Council, at district level by the District Council and at the local level by traditional chiefs.


3.1. Extent of forest resources

Forest (both natural and plantations) and woodlands in Zimbabwe cover about 66% of the total land area of the country (39 million ha) (Table 2). About 40% of the indigenous woodlands are situated in communal areas where they are traditionally exploited for fuelwood and pole supply. There is a decline in woodlands due mainly to clearing for agriculture, and partly due to fuelwood and pole collection, infrastructural development and overstocking of domestic animals. Approximately 100,000 ha are cleared annually (Gondo and Mkwanda 1991). Most forest cover in the gazetted state forests, commercial farming areas and the eastern highlands of the country. The current assessment do not give estimates of woody biomass in natural woodlands except where commercial timber extraction is taking place. Exotic plantations cover about 156,000 ha (0.4% of the country) of which 90% is located in the high altitude, high rainfall eastern highlands.

Table 2. Estimates of extent of each land use system in Zimbabwe

Land use

Area (000 ha)

% of total area

Rain Forest






Indigenous woodlands

25 772





Cultivated land






Other (waters, rocky outcrops)




39, 090


Source: Forestry Commission (1996)

3.2. Vegetation types

The indigenous woodlands and bushlands can be divided into 5 types (Bradley & McNamara, 1993):

Miombo woodland is dominated by Brachystegia spiciformis in association with Julbernardia globiflora. It covers most of the highveld at altitudes above 1200 m. The woodland is normally associated with sandy soils.

Mopane woodland is characterised by the species Colophospermum mopane and occurs at low altitudes below 900 m, where the climatic conditions are hot and dry. The woodland is normally associated with clay soils.

Teak Woodlands are found on the aeolian Kalahari sands in the north west of the country. The woodlands are characterised by Baikiaea plurijuga which grows in association with Pterocarpus angolensis and Guibourtia coleosperma mainly. These species are the main sources of commercially exploitable timber.

Acacia woodlands are dominated by various acacia species, depending on soil type.

Terminalia combretum woodlands are characterised by Terminalia sericea and Burkea africana species.

The distribution of the major vegetation types are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Distribution of the major woodland types by land tenure category in Zimbabwe (1,000 ha)

Vegetation type

























Total area





Source: Coopers and Lybrand 1985

3.3. Indigenous forests

Indigenous woodlands are quite extensive. The woodlands are divided into communal areas (CA), resettlement areas (RA), large scale commercial farming area (LSCFA) and gazetted state forests. The CA woodlands provide rural households with firewood, merchantable timber, construction timber, browse, fruits, medicines, mushrooms, bark and many other non-timber products. The woodlands are severely degraded due to over-exploitation as a result of high population growth, insecurity of tenure (communal ownership), agricultural expansion and conflicting land use policies. The RAs were once commercial farms and were endowed with tree resources. Because of population influx into these areas, the RA woodlands are now experiencing high rates of deforestation as land is cleared for farming. The woodlands found on the LSCFA's are fairly intact as the demand for forest resources (e.g. firewood) is low when compared to the CA and RA woodlands. The woodland areas in the different land use categories are given in Table 1.

The gazetted forests or forests reserves are divided into two categories. The first category are the woodlands found on the Kalahari sand formation spread in the north western part of the country. The woodlands contain commercially productive species such as Pterocarpus angolensis (Mukwa) and Baikiaea plurijuga (Red Mahogany). Table 4 shows the list of the gazetted state forests and the areas they cover.

Table 4. List of gazetted forest in Zimbabwe under management of the Forestry Commission

Name of Forest

Area (ha)











Nyamandlovhu (Grants/Batley)




Lake Alice






























Total (22)


The woodlands are also an important habitat for wildlife and have recently become vital to the tourism industry. Because of increasing population pressure, these woodlands are under pressure for the provision of services such as grazing, land and other forest products from legal and illegal settlers living in or on the periphery of these forests. The other category of gazetted forests are the remnant mid-altitude montane forests found in the eastern highlands. These are currently protected for biodiversity, cultural and scientific values.

The Forestry Commission, through its Research and Development Division, also manages the Chirinda Forest which is a mid-altitude afromontane forest located in the south eastern highlands. It is about 700 ha in size and is a centre of endemism for many plants and animal species.

3.4. Wood stocks demand and supply

Generally the woodlands in Zimbabwe have very low growth rates averaging 0.8 m3/ha/year. This coupled with the high population pressure has resulted in the fragmentation of the communal woodlands. The official deforestation rate in Zimbabwe is about 100,000 ha/year, or 0.6% of the total forest area, translating into about 7 million m3 of woody biomass. The demand for fuelwood, which is the main product from natural woodlands, is estimated to be 13 million m3 per year. Table 5 shows the estimate of total wood stocks of natural forests and woodlands.

Table 5. Estimate of total wood stocks of natural forests1 and woodlands

Land tenure category

Wood stocks (million tonnes)

Communal Land


Resettlement Land


Commercial Land


National Parks


Forest Reserves




1plantation forests are not included

Natural woodlands are also a source of fuelwood, fodder, construction timber, fencing poles, fruits, and grass. These products form the basis for woodland enterprises. There is not much information available about trees and forestry enterprises, but it is reported that 10-20% of rural households use woodland resources mainly as alternative sources of income (Bradley and Dewees 1993). Benefits from woodlands in Zimbabwe can be placed in the following categories; direct, local private benefits (e.g. fruits, fuelwood), indirect, local private benefit (e.g. nutrients, fodder and browse), indirect regional and semi-public benefits (e.g. soil erosion control, water catchment and recreation) and indirect global public benefit (e.g. carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation).

Empirical data to quantify values is not available except in a few case studies in different parts of the country. For example, the wood carving industry which has mushroomed along the major tourist routes records monthly incomes ranging from Z$ 42 to Z$ 4,000 per month (Matose et. al, 1996). It is therefore difficult to give a global figure of the total contribution to the national economy, but it suffices to quote that "indigenous woodland management holds the potential for generating favourable returns compared to other land use options particularly in the drier parts of the country" (World Bank 1991). Table 6 shows values of some common forest products obtained from natural woodlands.

Table 6. Value of common forest products and services based on a case study in Zimbabwe.


Value Z$/ha



Wild fruits






Nutrient cycling



Construction wood



Wild foods






Wooden implements



Wooden crafts



Source: Campbell et al. 1993

Fuelwood is one of the major sources of energy in Zimbabwe constituting about 52% of the total energy consumption. About 80% of the rural households depend on fuelwood for energy used in cooking, brick making, beer brewing, tobacco curing and heating. Fuelwood resources in accessible woodlands cover about 20% of the total land area representing a stock of 320 million metric tonnes, with a sustainable yield of 13 million metric tonnes per annum. Although this sustainable yield is able to meet the total national demand, there are localised shortages in most districts creating the need for local trade. However, there is little trade in fuelwood due to low trading margins, most people harvest for personal consumption. Fuelwood consumption in wood deficient districts is using up accessible stock in wood rich areas leading to increased cost of supply and further degradation of the woodland resources. The appropriateness of investment in interventions such as tree planting and woodland management depends on the relationship between cost of such intervention to the economy compared to the cost of providing alternative sources of energy. Thus tree planting has largely been funded by donor agencies (Rural Afforestation Programme- Phase I funded by the World Bank and Phase II funded by DANIDA) instead of government.

Timber harvesting concessions are issued in communal area (managed by Forestry Extension Division) and gazetted state forests (managed by Indigenous Resources Division). The Forestry Commission stopped harvesting of logs in 1987 in the gazetted state forest as response to diminishing resource base. Limited harvesting has just re-begun. A total of 18,431 m3 was extracted in 1995/96 raising Z$ 456,364 from communal areas.

3.5. Commercial plantations

The major forest plantation species grown in Zimbabwe are Pinus patula, P. elliottii and P. taeda, Eucalyptus grandis, E. cloeziana and Acacia mearnsii. The pines are used mainly for structural timber production, and pulp and paper; eucalyptus for poles, and pulp and paper, and the black-wattle (A. mearnsii) for the production for tannin. Exotic plantations cover about 156,000 ha (Table 2). Figure 1 shows the percentage areas planted under the major commercial species in Zimbabwe.

Figure 1. Percentage of area planted under the major commercial species

The state owns 42% total forestry plantations, private companies 54% and small growers 4%. The major forest companies in the country are vertically integrated to include plantation development and saw-milling. Other primary processing plants include manufacturing of doors, block boards, plywood, pulp and paper, and treated poles. The timber industry contributes 3% to the GDP. Direct jobs involved in plantation and processing of industrial forest products were estimated at 18,400 in 1996/7 of which 37% were contract employees.

Source: Timber Producers Federation, 1997


Studies on the supply of timber indicate that the age class structure of pine species is not balanced with most trees in the over-mature class (25 years or more). This is based on the Annual Report 1995/96 of the Forestry Commission, Research and Development. The unbalanced age structure was caused by limited markets, low milling capacity, remoteness of some growing stocks and war problems faced in the country before 1980. The quality of the over-mature stock is poor with small diameters and heavy branching caused by poor planting material and no silvicultural management.

Table 7. Roundwood consumption by plant type in 1996/7

Plant type

No. of plants

Roundwood (m3)

% increase over 1995/6





Veneer & Ply Mills




Particle & Fibreboard




Pulp & Paper Mills




Match factory




Pole production




Mining Timber




Wattle Factory (stripped bark)




Charcoal Production








In 1996/7 there were 68 primary processing plants, of which 54 were sawmills, 5 pole impregnation plants, 2 pulp mills, 2 particle board mills, 2 veneer and plywood mills, 1 charcoal plants, 1 match factory and 1 wattle extraction (Timber Producers' Federation 1997). Production from these processing plants in 1996/7 is shown in Table 7.

Currently, Zimbabwe is self-sufficient in sawn timber, and approximately 20% of the total output is exported to neighbouring countries and Europe. The current domestic consumption of soft roundwood is about 172,700 m3 (about half the total production and the other half is exported to the lucrative foreign market). Volume and sales figures for the year 1996-1997 are shown in Table 8.

Future demands for forest products have been estimated by correlating trends in consumption patterns and gross domestic product (World Bank 1991). The Timber Producers Federation and Timber Council project that demand for forest products is strongly linked to the construction and building industry and the demand is increasing. Growth in the agricultural, floricultural and horticultural sectors will see an increase in the demand for packaging material whilst increased standard of living will see increased paper consumption. Pulp companies projected an increase in demand for long fibre (pine) and bleached pulp to improve quality of packaging material. Table 9 shows the projected domestic demand of major forest products.

Plantation forestry has other minor non-wood products such as resin, honey and recreation. It is very difficult to provide production and consumption figures for these products because there is no formal trade.

Table 8. Volumes and sales of timber and timber products during the 1996/7 year.

Plant type




Sale Volumes


% increase

Sawn timber m3






Veneer and plywood m3






Poles m3






Particle & fibre board m3






Paper and products ton






Wattle extract ton






Charcoal ton












Total *






* Total comprise Z$439 million export and Z$518 million local sales.

Source: Timber producers Federation (1997)

Table 9. Projected demand for forest products
















Paper & Board















Source: World Bank 1991


4.1. Current laws governing forest resources management and utilisation

The laws that influence forest resources management and utilisation are listed in Table 10. Management and utilisation of forest resource in Zimbabwe are governed mainly by the Forest Act and the Communal Lands Forest Produce Act. Other Acts have indirect effects on management and utilisation of forest resource. Some of these laws do not promote sustainable forest management (e.g. Mines and Minerals Act).

4.2. Environmental policies

At the international level, conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Combating Desertification and the Convention on Climate Change are addressing the issue of environmental management. These conventions are legally binding and have been ratified by nearly 170 countries, including Zimbabwe, and commits the countries to take collective and individual actions to promote environmentally sustainable development.

An environmental impact policy was developed in 1994 and is being implemented by the Ministry of Mines, Environment and Tourism. Its objective is to ensure unwarranted environmental negative effects are avoided or mitigated when development projects are implemented. This should lead to improved environmental management.

Table 10. Laws that influence forest resources management and utilisation


Main themes and provisions

Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and Land Tenure

Created the present Communal areas on marginally productive land

Natural Resources Act of 1942 (amended many times)

Regulates use of natural resources. The Act is administered by the Natural Resources Board. Provides for the establishment of intensive conservation areas in commercial areas.

Forest Act of 1948 (amended 1982)

The Act mandates the Forestry Commission as the Forestry Authority to protect and conserve indigenous forests, and to regulate the harvesting of indigenous trees on private and communal lands. The Act mandates the Forestry Commission in its role as the State Forestry Enterprise to undertake plantation development and sawmilling.

Communal Land Forest Produce Act of 1987

The Act vests the commercial utilisation of forest products on communal areas in the hands of the Rural District Councils, and only allows subsistence utilisation of forest products by local people and communities.

National Parks and Wildlife Act of 1975, amended 1982

Designates ownership for wildlife to owners and occupiers of alienated land (e.g. communal people).

Communal Land Act of 1982, amended 1985

control of land placed under the President through the Rural District Councils rather than Chiefs.

Rural District Councils Act of 1988

Provides for the Rural District Councils to enact by-laws to regulate natural resources use and issue licences for commercial exploitation of wood products.

Land Acquisition Act of 1993

Provides for the designation of under utilised land

Mines and Minerals Act of 1996

Confers absolute rights to land for mining. Establishes that mining is not subject to impact assessment or land reclamation.

Environmental Management Act of 1998

The Act makes provision for regulations to promote the sustainable use of the environment through environmental impact assessment, environmental audits and penalties for those who pollute the environment.

In 1987 the National Conservation Strategy was developed to document environmental pressures facing Zimbabwe and recommend strategies to solve the problems. No priorities were identified nor were action programmes or projects identified and prepared for implementation, making it difficult to monitor progress in addressing the issues raised. The implementation of the strategy was also limited due to lack of resources and technical capacity.

Currently, Environmental Action Plans (EAP) are being developed and so are National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans to promote sustainable environmental management. A proposal to develop a National Forestry Action Programme has been drafted, and the programme will reveal that Zimbabwe is committed to solving its forest related problems, including environmental issues and contributing to international efforts on sustainable environmental management.

Most of the players in the timber industry have developed corporate policies on the environment to define corporate values and general management guidelines that promote SFM.

In 1997 the Timber Producers' Federation developed and encouraged its members to implement the Environmental Conservation Guidelines. The guidelines prescribe conservation procedures at planting, harvesting, construction of roads and other plantation development activities to avoid or minimise adverse impacts to the environment. These self-regulatory mechanisms can only be viewed as an important step towards environmental sustainability in forest plantations. Environmental audits are being implemented by the timber industry to monitor adherence to the guidelines. Currently, the Timber Producers' Federation is in the process of compiling guidelines for sawmilling to complement the existing forestry management guidelines.

Central to SFM is the certification of forests, and forest products. To this end the timber industry is in the process of obtaining environmental certification, primarily from the Stewardship Council that issues internationally recognised certificates for sustainable forest management.

4.3. National forest policy

The most recent National Forest policy statement dates to 1990, it is the mandate of the Forestry Commission. The policy sought to:

promote the sustained yield of forests;

promote conservation of forests and trees;

to maintain an inventory of the forest resources;

promote research and training in order to meet the needs of the forestry sector;

promote other land uses in commercial forestry; and

promote joint ventures.

The National Forestry Policy Statement replaced the 1982 policy statement by including three new areas of focus under its role as the Forestry Authority: promote afforestation and woodland management on communal areas; increase planting of indigenous trees; and supervise logging of indigenous hardwoods.

There is a need to develop a new National Forest Policy which takes into account current socio-economic conditions and promotes the sustainable management of forests.

4.4. Indigenous people issues

It is unfortunate that small holders still play an insignificant role in the forestry industry. The timber industry is dominated by 3 large players which monopolise the wood supply. This situation, however, may change if the small holders get a stake in the new Forestry Company after the commercialisation and privatisation of the State Forests. Privatisation would increase involvement of local people in the timber industry. This move will be in line with the policy of the government of Zimbabwe. Also prior to privatisation, sub-contracting of services such as transport and thinning will empower indigenous people, particularly employee-formed companies and co-operatives.

Policies prior to independence focused on the regulation, control and exclusion of local communities around forest reserves. These policies continued after independence. They lead to unstructured illegal settlement and encroachment within forest reserves, and illegal activities such as timber poaching, wildlife poaching, cattle grazing and forest fires. It is now recognised that for sustainable management of forest resources to be successful, a partnership approach to resource management which allows access to the resources by the local people and sharing of benefits by all key stakeholders is necessary for effective forest management. This policy is being pursued by the Forestry Commission along the same lines as the successful wildlife resource sharing management approach (CAMPFIRE) developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Department.

Policies outside the forestry sector (macro economic policies, land policies, etc) must be reviewed so that they promote sustainable forest management.


5.1 Institutions collecting forestry information

Below is a list of institutions involved in collecting information on forestry:

Forestry Commission: The Forestry Commission collects information on commercial and industrial forests and roundwood processing. There is a legal obligation on the part of the land owners to complete the questionnaires. Information on commercial and industrial statistics include plantation areas by species, end use, age, ownership and province. Information on a number and categories of staff employed in plantations is collected. The roundwood processing information includes production figures for the various products, and amount imported and exported. Information collected includes ownership, number and categories of staff employed in the processing plants.

Timber Producers' Federation: The Timber Producers' Federation is an association of Zimbabwe plantation timber growers and sawmillers. It collects information on sales and production on a monthly basis from its members. The Timber Producers' Federation, like the Forestry Commission, collect information on plantation area by species, ownership and amount harvested, and primary plant production, and number employed. Unlike the Forestry Commission it collects information on primary plant sales and value. All information is collected through questionnaires sent to organisations and individuals.

Central Statistics Office: The Central Statistics Office collects, on an annual basis, information on agricultural crops and employment figures in the sector. Forestry is included under agricultural crops. Information collected on forestry include volume and value of timber. All institutions & individuals to whom the questionnaires are sent are required by law to give accurate data and to return the questionnaires within a prescribed period. Central Statistics also collect on a monthly basis information on imports and exports (quantities and value) from the department of Customs and Excise.

National Herbarium and Botanical Gardens collects information on plant uses, particularly non-timber uses, species identification and ecology. It has developed vegetation maps for Matabeleland and Zambezi valley. They are florist maps which show species distribution, and are complementary maps to those developed by the Forestry Commission which show the structure of vegetation.

International Organisations: Various international organisations such as the FAO, WWF and IUCN also collect information on forestry

5.2. Methodology of data collection

Vegetation mapping is done using satellite remote sensing and geographic information system. The satellite images are obtained from South Africa. Existing topographic maps are obtained from the Department of the Surveyor General. Aerial photographs and ground truthing exercises are used to verify satellite image interpretations. Surveys are used to determine forest statistics. Forms are printed and sent to the respective organisations and individuals. Data is then processed by computers and summaries are produced.

5.3. Some information gaps

Many trees are being planted by individuals on farms, as boundary trees, around homesteads or collectively in small plantations or woodlots. The information on the trees outside forests is scanty. Information on non-wood forest products such as fruits, honey, fibre, grasses, etc. is lacking, and this can be attributed to the inadequate knowledge on the methods for assessing non-wood forest products. These methods need to be developed.

With regard to vegetation mapping, the satellite data for monitoring is very expensive, and this has been compounded by the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar. Currently, each image costs US$ 5, 000 from South Africa. The current maps show the extent of forest cover but, not the volumes, hence there is need to gather information on the woody biomass and growth rates.

This information will be particularly important to assess the quality of the forests which are subjected to selective commercial harvesting, and those subjected to selective harvesting of fuelwood, building materials and non-wood products, and seasonal fires. Sustainable forest management is unlikely to be achieved in the absence of such vital information. It should be stressed that indigenous forests are complex, are subject to extensive human activities which are hard and expensive to monitor. Furthermore, funding for such information gathering on indigenous forests, which is dependent on government funding, is limited. The lack of funding and lack of priority given to indigenous forests is also reflected in the disparity in the literature available in plantation forests (over 90%) compared to that on indigenous forests (less than 5%), and yet the indigenous forests consists of over 99% of the total forest area.

Maps produced by the National Herbarium on species distribution have only been done for Matabeleland and the Zambezi valley, and there is need to extend this to other parts of the country.

The most recent forest statistics compiled by the Forestry Commission covers the period 1992/3. This information is old because the Forestry Commission has not been able to process the data fast enough due to poor staffing levels and partly due to delayed responses. More up-to-date information on forest statistics is required in order to make informed decisions. The questionnaire should be revised in order to make it easier to fill. This may result in quicker response. Also a decision may needed on the most efficient way to collect the information and the frequency of the collection.


Zimbabwe has done well in terms of collecting information on plantations. However, the same can not be said for the indigenous forests where the lack of information is greater, and decision making inefficient. There is a need to develop methodologies for collecting data particularly for non-wood forest products and to avail adequate resources for collecting information on indigenous forests. Given this information, and appropriate management and enabling policies, Zimbabwe's indigenous forests could be managed sustainably for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.


Anon (1992). Technical Assistance for the technical and economic feasibility study for the state forests development of Zimbabwe; League of Arab states: Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development Volume 1 main report. 151 pp.

Bradley and Dewees (1993): Indigenous woodlands, agricultural production and household economy in the communal areas.

Bradley, P.N. & McNamara, K. (1993): Living with trees - Policies for Forestry Management in Zimbabwe; World Bank Technical Paper No. 210. 329 pp.

Campbell, B., Grundy, I and Matose, F. (1993). Tree and woodland resources - technical practices of small scale farmers. Bradely P. N. and McNamara, K. (1993).

Living with trees: Policies for forestry management in Zimbabwe. World Bank, Washington.

Forestry Commission, Research and Development Annual Report 1995/96.

Gondo, P.C. and Kwesha, D. (1993): National Woody Cover Mapping: Application of Landsat MSS data in Zimbabwe. In the Proceedings of the Ecology and Management of Indigenous Forests in Southern Africa held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Gondo, P. C. and Mkwanda, R. (1991): The assessment and monitoring of forest resources and forest degradation in Zimbabwe: Proceedings of a regional workshop on methodology for deforestation and forest degradation assessment. 25 Nov. - 13 Dec., 1991, Nairobi, Kenya.

Matose, F., Mudhara, M and Mushove, P. (1996): The Woodcraft Industry along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls road. Forestry Commission.

Timber Producers Federation (1997): Zimbabwe timber industry statistics for 1976-1997.

World Bank (1991): Zimbabwe Forest Policy Review.

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