Hwange Colliery Company is pushing for more uptake of coal in the tobacco curing process in order to reduce deforestation.
Farmers particularly in small scale production are still heavily reliant on firewood, leading to massive deforestation.
Hwange Colliery Company Managing Director, Engineer Thomas Makore said an estimated 100000 tonnes of coal per year is going towards tobacco curing but the figure can be doubled.
“We are saying no to deforestation, we are promoting the use of coal for tobacco curing. Coal is a fossil fuel and it is highly efficient and is able to provide adequate heat and give good quality tobacco for tobacco farmers. So we are really pushing that all farmers revert to using coal and not firewood because firewood naturally is destroying our forests and our environment,” he said.
While wood is less efficient for tobacco curing than coal, the greatest challenge for many farmers has been the incapacity to burn coal due to unavailability of electricity to run barn fans.
This has left woodlands suffering as a result.
Figures from the Zimbabwe’s Forestry Commission indicate that 20 percent of the 330 000 hectares of natural forest lost annually is due to firewood cut for tobacco curing.