Sinda District chiefs says Zambians must wake up to the reality of climate change as its effects are clear for all to see.

Speaking during the launch of Rocket Cook Stove at Sinda RCZ Church, Thursday, chief Mbangombe of the Chewa people in Sinda and Katete wondered why Zambians were failing to see the danger of carelessly cutting trees, especially for firewood and charcoal.

“It’s sad that people who see that trees have finished are those outside Zambia, while we, the owners, can’t see! I don’t know if we are blind that we can’t see the damage we have caused to our environment. Honestly, we had to wait for white people in America to tell us that we are destroying the environment?” chief Mbangombe wondered.

“In the past, in times of hunger, we use to go into the bush to fetch or gather wild fruits like wild berries. But now, who can go and find these fruits? Nothing! Why? We have finished cutting trees because of charcoal. The unfortunate part is that the demand of charcoal is here in towns. If you in towns who have money can stop buying charcoal from villagers, then believe you me the environment will be saved. I request the DC (Paradious Sakala) and your team to fight a good fight in stopping the activity here in towns because in villages, it’s firewood, while here, it’s charcoal.”

Chief Mbangombe, who also spoke on behalf of other chiefs in the area, lamented that women were routinely punished because they were still being subjected to travel long distances to fetch firewood.

“Women are really in problems because they walk long distances fetching firewood and carry big bundles of firewood instead of being engaged in progressive ventures,” he observed.

The traditional leaders resolved to arrest or firmly deal with anyone found with charcoal to curb rampant deforestation in the area.

And Sinda District Commissioner Paradious Sakala complained that Sinda was degenerating into a desert on account of heightened human activity associated with firewood cutting.

He explained that the areas that were previously bushy forest had quickly been cleared up as bare land dominated the geographical landscape.

“The desert we see in Sahara is now coming to Sinda because we have been cutting trees carelessly! Areas, which were thick are now bare such that you can’t fear walking those areas at night. With that scenario, that’s why we asked our colleagues, COMACO, to provide cooking stoves to us and as a district of Sinda; we want to have 35,000 houses with cooking stoves. Even though COMACO says they have 10,000, but we will go back to them to increase the target so that every community in our district benefits from this,” said Sakala.

“We have started this exercise here in town because the demand for charcoal is quite high than in villages. It is our vision that Sinda becomes number one in environment restoration in Eastern Province.”

Meanwhile, COMACO Eastern region manager Moses Mwenda observed that the global atmosphere remained in danger, mainly on account of deforestation.

“The world in which we are living is in great danger because the climate has really changed. Rains use to show on 24th October, but today up to 25th November, the onset is not serious as in some places they have not even received a single drop! We are in danger and the question is what has changed the environment? Man’s activities has destroyed the climate! When we prepare our fields, we cut down trees; when we want to construct a house, trees are cut down; when we want to make a road, trees are cut down. We don’t really know that trees clear our environment by absorbing carbon, and that a lot of trees have been cut, carbon is now in excess,” complained Mwenda.

“Everyone in Zambia cooks, they want to eat and as a result, trees are cut for firewood; trees are cut for charcoal and you can also see that we are good at cutting down trees, but we are not good at planting trees. If you look around, trees have finished all we see around are shrubs; that signifies that trees are finishing! Let’s adopt the use of cooking stoves so that we protect our environment and revamp forests. The use of cooking stoves will reduce the time our women waste to fetch for firewood and that time will be used for other productive activities.”

The launch, organized by COMACO, was attended by Her Royal Highness chieftainess Nyanje; chieftainess Kawaza and chief Mbangombe, among several other dignitaries.

COMACO, the Community Markets for Conservation, is an NGO that supports wildlife conservation and small-scale farmers in Eastern Zambia.

The social enterprise, which also trains former poachers to farm, purchases and transports crops from remote regions of the country, where few other buyers will travel, and pays premium prices to give farmers the value they deserve.