Exploring Enviromental Education Dimensions of the Interaction between Zemba Farming Block Virginia Tobacco Farmers and their Forests

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Kalirani, Kasaro Joyce
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Forests can help in regulating local climate which, in turn, can contribute to the global climate situation. The many environmental problems that the world is faced with have reached alarming proportions. Deforestation is one of these environmental problems. Deforestation refers simply to the loss of forestland or, as defined by FAO (1978), as the permanent destruction of indigenous forests arid woodlands excluding exotic forests such as plantations. The major effects of deforestation include deterioration of ecological systems that result in negative effects on production and development.This research reports on a study conducted in a rural farming community in Zambia called Zemba farming scheme. It aims to explore the relationships between the community and their forests as well as to articulate environmental education dimensions that can influence community participation in forest resource management among Virginia tobacco farmers. The study established specific estimates of forest-wood depletion in Zemba farming block as a result of tobacco growing. The aim of the estimate was to investigate the extent and causes of deforestation in Zemba farming block. Once these data was generated, the study proceeded to use the data to design an environmental education programme for the study community. In this study the following two questions were explored, firstly, what is the extent of deforestation in Zemba farming block? Secondly, why did deforestation occur and how did it affect the people living in the area? In order to address the aim of this study,the following specific objectives guided the study; to generate baseline data on the relationship between rural tobacco farmers and the forest in their vicinity to provide an understanding of the principal processes underlying deforestation in Zemba farming block.At the time of this study in 2008, it had been discovered that Zambia was losing about 444 000 ha of forest each year and that hi the period 2000 - 2005, it increased by 10% per year. This was a serious contribution towards deforestation. Such an estimate of wood harvest was a challenge that this study wished to address at a general level. Tree census conducted in the area revealed that the forest was a 'young forest' which means that most of the big trees had been harvested for tobacco use or other uses. The largest tree of the endangered species, Jubernardia paniculata, only measured about 46cm in circumference; most of them measured less than 30cm.It was also clear from the findings that the farmers in the study community were not willing to stop growing Virginia tobacco for other less destructive types of tobacco such as barley for reasons that Virginia tobacco was quite profitable even when grown on a small portion. They also earned early cash and in foreign currency as Virginia tobacco was quoted in foreign currency on the stock market.The respondents in this study only focused on short term benefits and ignored the long term effects that this kind of tobacco farming brings and how these effects would, in turn, affect their future living. Reafforestation had been tried in the past by some tobacco companies hi the area but had not been supported by the local community. In a situation like this, environmental education would be helpful in changing the attitudes of these people. What is important to note is that there are solutions to environmental problems. Human needs never end and, therefore, it is important to find a lasting solution that would be helpful to the community while sustaining the environment. In this regard, this study recommends intervention measures such as bee keeping and environmental education to make conservation of the endangered forest successful. Bee keeping in itself is a job creation activity, which in the end empowers the community economically.