The destruction on Chikangawa Forests has been a story amply mourned both in and out of the media. But scarcely have we seen practical suggestions on what needs to be done coming out clearly so that the story that is very sad can be changed into joy. Otherwise, large areas of the forest have continued to plod towards inexistence. Government ministries and departments that could have managed to safeguard the plantation from this sort of scathe have been overpowered by powers that proved far much superior. But not all is lost. And this is the time we as a nation need to do something to re-snaffle something out of this national treasure that we cheaply let slip off our hands.
One thing that is very clear is that this restoration process needs investment in terms of both resource and time. The trees that we have managed to harvest in the past decade were planted as early as 1950s. This teaches us one major lesson: having long term vision. I am sure that those who laid the plantation’s foundation were at no point deterred by the likelihood of them not being in physical contact with the economic benefits that were to come out of the forest. But one thing they surely never envisaged is the invasion by sharp and hungry saws that we have seen in the past decade or so.
The government at that time was also very generous in terms of committing financial resources towards the planting of trees. You don’t expect the dressing of 50000 hectares of land with seedlings to be a lowly costing adventure. Now that we have brought Chikangawa back to its initial state, what can fail us to do what our friends and government did five or so decades ago? We just need progressive mentality.
First of all, as a nation, we need to come out in the open and admit the ‘sin’ we have committed in Chikangawa. Recognising it as a national disaster is key to its restoration. Now after recognising it as a disaster, long term and short term plans should be put in place to work on the restoration programme. A special working committee of some sort to spearhead the drive would add spark to the initiative.
A study by expert forestry consultants should be constituted to among others quantify the extent of deforestation, the amount of money required to reforest the whole terrain, the number of years this could take, the best tested afforestation approaches that can work, and the best way of combating fires, which has proved to be the greatest enemy to the restitution of the forest. This would form the nation’s working base for planning.
Another thing we need to do is to make sure that the programme generates as much funds as possible for running daily affairs. This would be the duty of the working committee. Many are the time government has attributed its lack of initiative on a number of fronts to lack of funds. We don’t expect such a large-scale initiative to be an exception. These funds would be invested in annual seedling production, their planting and community mobilisation. The working committee, or whatever, government decides to call it, would also work towards coordinating different groups that show keen interest in the affairs of the forest. Otherwise, what we see is a disjointed group of people with concern on the deplorable state of Chikangawa forest. The impact of whatever action such groups put in place, very often leave hard to see marks. But if such action is well coordinated, we would have been talking of success by this time.
Besides this, it would be wonderful to see government use the National Tree Planting Season to champion the reforestation of Chikangawa forest. This would help government see a clear picture of the impact the season makes on the ground. Otherwise, what hear from the nationally spread tree planting exercise are reports that a very large percentage of seedlings planted every year rarely develop into trees which, in short, defeats the whole purpose of the initiative. If we could target such efforts to a specific area per like Chikangawa, the cost benefit scale would skew towards the positive side.
If we try these steps as a nation, without attaching any politics, and without considering the distance gulfing the present from the time the next round of economic returns will trickle in, I believe that it cannot take us more than a decade for Chikangawa to wear back the green it used to enjoy until middle 2000s.