Over 20 000 tobacco farmers have been registered under a new programme by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) to supply growers with coal to curb the use of firewood to cure the golden leaf.

Statistics show that over 330 000 hectares of trees are being destroyed as a result of indiscriminate cutting down of trees by people, either for firewood or curing tobacco.

It emerged that 15 percent of the figure is caused by the tobacco farmers, who on the other hand constitute the biggest foreign currency earners for the country, leading to the formation of the programme.

“We already registered over 20 000 farmers covering 20 hectares this season, so beginning this year all these farmers will get a supply of coal, this will go a long way to curb the use of firewood which was on the increase on a yearly basis,” TIMB spokesperson, Mr Isheunesu Moyo said.

Mr Moyo revealed that in order to complement the programme, TIMB will also channel the afforestation funds, which have been approved by Parliament to support farmers to grower more trees.

“We are happy to announce that the Parliament has approved the disbursement of the afforestation funds, which were lying idle for a long time. So it is another milestone which will see farmers working together to grow trees in all tobacco growing areas,” he added.

Tobacco growing areas have been exposed to serious deforestation over the years as the ballooning number of tobacco growers has resorted to indiscriminate cutting down of trees to cure tobacco, which has turned out to be a lucrative crop for thousands of households.