ADMINSTRATION of the Afforestation Fund, introduced in 2015 to replenish woodlots being decimated by tobacco farmers is still under the Finance Ministry despite indications it will be referred to the Agriculture Ministry, an industry official has said.
By Tinashe Kairiza
Before commencement of the previous tobacco marketing season, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation minister Joseph Made had said the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) was going to oversee management of the fund.
Resources mobilised under the fund, initially managed by TIMB at inception and now amounting to over US$16 million, are yet to be channelled towards the tree growing initiative.
Over the past three seasons, tobacco farmers have raised concern on how the fund is being administered by government.
Under the Afforestation Fund, government levies 1,5% from total sales conducted by tobacco farmers.
TIMB chief executive Andrew Matibiri said administration of the fund was relinquished to the Finance Ministry.
“In 2015, TIMB surrendered the administration of the levy to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and the Ministry of Finance. If you want more detail you have to contact Zimra or the ministry of Finance,” Matibiri said.
Utilisation of the fund, he said, would only commence after the “matter was tabled before Parliament”.
“All public funds have to be tabled in Parliament, that has not been done yet,” Matibiri said, noting that Zimra over the past two seasons was directly deducting the levy from tobacco sales.
Last season, Zimbabwe produced over 200 million kilogrammes of tobacco, largely driven by small scale farmers who mostly rely on firewood for curing their crop.
The exponential growth of Zimbabwe’s tobacco output, which has quickened over the past decade, has seen the rapid exploitation of forests as farmers cut trees to cure their crop.