The Zambezi Teak forests of Zambia: A tale of mismanagement.

14 thoughts on “The Zambezi Teak forests of Zambia: A tale of mismanagement.”

  1. well done Mike for keeping at it …i am off to Zim at beginning of next month …I wonder how that looks after so many years . sj

    1. Thanks SJ – Zim is actually a lot better in many ways than Zambia when it comes to administering it’s natural resources. It’s the one thing that Mugabe hasn’t messed with. Have fun!

      1. Mr musgrave I jst like the you com out am a student doin forestry in doin a project on the same zambezi teak for my bachelors degree thesis and I could love you to help me on somthn, I just don’t know how to conctact you sir but u cn reach me on my email

  2. A small point that I make is to say that the name of the logging company prior to 1970 was spelt Zambesi Saw Mills as compared to the river’s name which is with a “z”. I worked for the company until 1966 when I moved to Bulawayo.

    1. Hi Barry – thanks for your contribution. Yes, I am aware of the spelling change from the old Zambesi Saw Mills (1948). So good to hear from someone who worked for the old company. I’d be interested hear more about what you did and your impressions of the forests and the whole industry while you were there. It’s a shadow of what it was – and the new owners are a dubious lot. The forests unfortunately, will probably never be the same.

  3. What a travesty. It horrifies me to think what future Zambia holds once all her natural resources have been depleted. The only positive light is the growing environmental movement and awareness within the general populace. Are you working with any of them to highlight this issue re the Teak forest? Govt needs to be held to account!

    1. Thanks for your comments. It seems the Zambian government is not really interested in sustainable forestry. I have been working with NGO’s for years to try and raise concerns with government about the destruction of forests. They view any dissent as rebellion, any criticism as disloyalty to the country and nothing is being done to stop the destruction. If anything it is increasing and Chinese and other investors scrabble to cut the last forests fro profit – which is shared by the government of course.

  4. You have the right to your opinion and freedom to express yourself as you wish. I am a Zambia Forester myself currently working for the Forestry Department. I may not know what research you did may be doing in the Baikiaea forests, but it is great to know you have done it also in Zambia. For whatever the reasons, I hope your research is/was aimed at providing professional referential help in terms of what FD may use to respond to your findings, because the game of blaming others and making hateful conclusions never yield any better results. It would be nice to meet a researcher whose interest is to share with others his/her findings without nihilistic malice. For instance, I didn’t know that the Zambian Government is not interested in sustainable forest management and if this is true, it is very unfortunate. If FD or indeed the Government of Republic of Zambia says it is disloyalty to be criticized or indeed being rebellious when a humble and balanced reporting is provided, then it is even more worrisome. In your writing though please pardon me if i get it completely wrong, you sound as though you are bitter with a personal experience because a research never packs up to venture into BED (Blaming, Excuses, Denial). Mkmusgrave, I may have some news for you to learn please lets meet anytime soon for a chat. I will be waiting to hear from you for an appointment to meet at your earliest convenient time.

    1. Thanks for your comments Abel. I have nothing but the highest praise for the forest officers working in the field under difficult circumstances. I have always supplied all my findings and maps to the FD and will continue to do so. I’m not sure my conclusions are hateful – but after 30 years of failing to do basic forest management in the Zambezi Teak Forests I’m afraid the facts speak for themselves. The forests have never recovered from logging and the FD is the agency responsible for management. No, I am not bitter from personal experience – Zambia is a wonderful country and I am honoured to live here and I hope my research can be used to highlight problems so that we can fix these problems. Criticism is not disloyalty but the first step towards highlighting problems. There are problems generally in Zambia with devolvement of tenure and governance to communities, whether that be with wildlife or forests, and until these problems are addressed we will continue to see our forests cut down and our wildlife poached to extinction. After more than 10 years of trying to address these issues, after a draft Forests Act which addresses some of these issues not being passed by parliament for over 10 years, one does get a bit frustrated. In a recent paper by Julia Leventon (Leventon, J., Kalaba, F. K., Dyer, J. C., Stringer, L. C., and Dougill, A. J. (2014). Delivering community benefits through REDD+: Lessons from Joint Forest Management in Zambia. Forest Policy and Economics, 44:10–17.) the FD has also been criticised for its lack of focus on people and livelihoods, and therefore I am certainly not the only person to be critical of Zambia Government Policy. The paper concludes that Joint Forest Management is not capable of delivering benefits to communities with the current legislation and focus of the FD. So Abel I am happy to hear from a member of the Zambia Forestry Department. My research, raw data and maps and anything else I can provide are freely available to you or anyone who would like it and some of these have been provided already. However I am not going to shy away from discussing the problems with legislation because the solution to the problems lies in making them clear. Government have not been proactive in addressing these concerns and both the forests and the people who live near these forests are suffering as a result of this failure to change. If we cannot criticise then we cannot change. We need big changes in Zambia to the way communities share in resource management and revenue.

  5. I am happy to link up with you and thanks for the reply to my previous communication. I like your response and I also agree that criticism is good and never to be taken as disloyalty and this was my observation and my profound belief. You may wish to know that I am doing Land cover mapping for Zambia to generate activity data for GHG emission accounting for Zambia from land use and land cover changes (1990, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010). I (together with the ILUAII Team) have developed a land cover classification schema II for Zambia which can be rolled back to 6 IPCC LULUC classes for international reporting on GHG emissions. I am also coordinating the National Forest Inventory field data collection exercise under ILUAII, SADC REDD+ Inventory for Eastern Province and there are opportunities for several synergies from other efforts (i.e. BioCarbon Partners, COMACO, CIFOR, USAID). These activities will enable us bring our study results to stimulate proactiveness in decision makers. We have a triangle never to break between RESEARCHERS, INFORMATION USERS and DECISION MAKERS. Lets team up and do our best, certainly someone will hear us, if not today, then tomorrow should be our hope.

    1. Abel I have been following the land cover mapping through the various reports you have released and it is excellent work that you and the team are doing. As you say, let us hope that decision makers can make changes to the legislation so that communities can participate in the benefits which REDD+ can bring because without that the mapping alone will not be sufficient to achieve a just and equitable implementation of REDD+. Thanks for your interest in my blog – I hope you will become a regular reader. I will be posting once a week (usually on a Wednesday) and I use many examples from Zambia.

  6. Mike I just read a piece by you in a local paper in Vic Falls and traced you to this site. As a student I worked in the Gwampa teak forest under Blake Goldsmith in the 1950’s in S. Rhodesia. I was at the time doing surveys and we all thought things were going well in the teak forests. Later in the 60s I was doing extensive game surveys in several large teak forests and became deeply concerned and have been since because coppus growth was being mistaken for regeneration, and I have battled for years to find any new establishing trees. We knew of their extreme sensitivity to fire and Forestry Commission as a consequence for many years advocated early burning to ensure a weak creeping fire to prevent damage but this too I found was killing the forests and all around us here are dying frankly. Alongside the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe we have now taken over management of a small area of the Fuller Forest to see what we can do using cattle to regenerate the teak. If ever in the Vic Falls it would be nice to talk if I am here (I spend about half of each year here and you can always email me ) Outside the forest we are now experiencing phenomenal regeneration of the land including getting thousands of F.albida seedlings germinating. Still trying to work out why they are not yet establishing after germination but will get there hopefully.

    1. Hi Allan thanks for your comments and interest. I’ve been following your work for many years and a visit to the Africa Centre for Holistic Management has been on my list of things to do for a while. Somehow, other things always seem to get in the way. I’ll email you with a more detailed reply and I will make a point of coming to see you next time I am in Zambia. I think your use of cattle to regenerate Zambezi teak is an excellent idea and one I have been keen to try in Mulobezi for years. I think soil type is really important for the dense, mature, closed canopy forest like we used to see in Zambia and of which there are a few patches remaining. The teak forest in Zimbabwe seems to be more complicated by the erratic distribution of deep Kalahari sands and the more complex underlying geology generally in the region from Tsholotsho to Hwange and through to Fuller forest. If you found my article interesting my book may be of more interest. I’ll send you the detail in an email. Best wishes – Mike.

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