PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says the forestry sector is a viable alternative to the country’s economic development because trees were a non-diminishing resource as the case is with minerals.
Speaking when he launched the K10 million Shiwang’andu Forest Plantations in Muchinga Province yesterday, President Lungu noted that the forestry sector could contribute to sustainable economic development if well harnessed.
He said Government was committed to ensuring that the sector received the attention it deserved to ensure that its potential was fully exploited as part of its diversification agenda.
“I wish to state that my Government has recognised the forestry sector as one of the strategic sectors of our economy with immense potential to contribute towards achieving the objectives of the industrialization and job creation policy.
“As I said during the opening of Parliament, I will ensure that the diversification policy is not just mere talk but a practical reality,” President Lungu said.
He noted that the forestry sector was a necessary tool for stimulating job creation in the country, which could also be a good platform for poverty alleviation and especially in rural areas where there were often limited economic opportunities.
President Lungu however expressed worry at the rate of deforestation in the country especially in the northern region of the country which was once a green region.
“It is however disheartening to note the changes in the landscape from an aerial view of Zambia over the last few decades especially over the northern parts. What becomes clear is the rate of deforestation on what essentially has been a greener and thicker landscape,” he said.
President Lungu urged the Zambia Forest and Forestry Industry Corporation to partner with Zesco to ensure that electricity poles were sources locally rather than depending on imports by enhancing productivity and value addition.
He also called upon the private sector to invest in the forest industry.
“In the spirit of diversification and value addition, my Government will not only support efforts by State owned enterprises but the private sector as well to participate in the forestry sector.
“My Government is convinced that the private sector is the engine of economic development. Therefore, the participation of private entities not only in this sector but the entire economy at large is critical,” President Lungu said. He has since directed the Ministry of Finance to make funds available to ZAFFICO to roll out its plantation programme to other provinces.
And Lands Minister Christabel Ngimbu said her ministry was taking the issue of forest management and sustainability seriously.