Today, the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programmes (GEF SGP) in Zimbabwe joins everyone globally in celebrating the International Day of Forests under the theme - "Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”. Over the past several years we have been working with communities and different institutions in the restoration and sustainable management of forests which are key in addressing issues related to climate change and biodiversity.
The STAGE project in Honde Valley is training communities on the protection and sustainable utilisation of forests and bamboo. Through the initiative, 52 hectares of Afromontane landscape and Important Bird Areas that form a major part of the Eastern Zimbabwe Mountains Endemic Bird Area (EBA) hav been protected. The area is rich in biodiversity and the protection of forests has led to multiple benefits for wildlife, birds, reptiles and other biodiversity species. In addition, the community has raised 6000 seedlings for planting in degraded areas; 450 beehives have been set up for honey production and bamboo is being used to produce different crafts which are being marketed regionally.
In Hurungwe, the Bio-hub Trust has implemented a project on promoting bamboo as an alternative energy source for household use and tobacco curing, whilst concurrently promoting sound forest management. This project was necessitated by the increasing rates of forest loss in the district, largely driven by household firewood use, construction, the establishment of settlements and increased tobacco cropping and curing. To date, 3,750 bamboo plants have been distributed and planted in wards 10, 12 and 17 covering12,3 hectares. The bamboo project is benefitting 250 beneficiaries (105 females, 145 males) and is protecting species that are under severe threat by supporting five Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) sites covering 1,907 hectares. In addition, 4,500 seedlings were raised in the nurseries and are being planted in woodlots. To help reduce the use of firewood in household cooking, 63 fuel saving stoves were distributed in the community and these are being used by the women for personal use and to bake items for sale, providing an additional source of income.
Overall, different efforts by communities in protecting forests have been key in improving their ecosystems and well-being as they are dependent on them for energy provision and their livelihoods.