Many people are taking advantage of the continuous load shedding as they are engaging in illicit charcoal trading, ignoring the ecological effects charcoal production bears.

So far, the Forestry Commission has confiscated more than 10 tonnes of charcoal from illicit dealers in Muzarabani.

Electricity challenges currently facing the country have resulted in people resorting to alternative energy sources such as charcoal and firewood, with a ready market in urban areas, turning the improper business into a major cash cow.

“This is winter season and we are also taking advantage of load shedding. People are opting to use charcoal so it is a big business,” said one of the charcoal dealers.

Charcoal production has been cited as one of the key drivers of deforestation n areas such as Muzarabani, Guruve, Mhondoro, Hwange and Chiredzi.

“Charcoal production and selling has become a menace in the country and we are appealing for the judiciary to give a more stringent penalty to those trading without licenses. Our officers are, however, on the ground and anyone caught will be dealt with accordingly,” Forestry Commission General Manager, Mr Abednigo Marufu said.

Efforts to curb deforestation have attracted international attention over the years, with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change emphasising on forest conservation as part of achieving sustainable development.