Tobacco farmers, who benefited from the Hwange Colliery Company pilot programme on the use of coal in curing the golden leaf, have proposed that the initiative be rolled out to all parts of the country as it has assisted in the conservation of indigenous trees in their areas.
Under the pilot programme initiated by the coal mining giant two years ago, farmers benefited from coal availed by rural district councils at subsidised prices to ensure viability.
In the Beatrice area, prominent tobacco farmer, Mr Edson Makina says the programme is a good initiative but needs to be adopted on a national scale to save the indigenous forests which are under threat from massive deforestation.
He noted that apart from conserving the forests, coal cured tobacco has a good quality compared to the crop cured using firewood.
â€œIt is important to note that the crop cured using coal has good quality because you are able to maintain constant temperatures,â€ Mr Makina said.
Another farmer, Mr Mutemi Zishiri said it is cheaper to use coal for curing tobacco compared to firewood.
â€œIn terms of the quantities, you use less coal to cure tobacco and in this area, we have been able to save a lot of trees,â€ he said.
Hwange Colliery Marketing Manager, Mr Charles Zhou said the mining firm has supplied coal at lower prices to the rural district councils to ensure that the low costs are passed on to the farmers.
â€œWe were able to pit on special offers to our farmers so that their business is remains viable,â€ said Mr Zhou.
With the county grappling with the adverse effects of climate change, alternative sources of energy should be adopted on a larger scale as deforestation has been cited as a major cause of the phenomenon in developing countries.
Experts say it is then critical to educate most small scale farmers of the dangers of destroying forests which are usually harvested during the tobacco curing season.