Power and food shortages force Zambians back into depleted forests

    by Tendai Marima, Thomson Reuters Foundation
    Monday, 21 March 2016 16:45 GMT

The sun sets as Zambian fans watch a World Cup qualifier soccer match between Senegal and Zambia in the northern Copperbelt town of Chililabombwe, Zambia September 3, 2005. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings MH/SA

Poor rainfall is causing food and power shortages that could force Zambian villagers to turn to the forests in search of fuel and income.

This season's drought - influenced by the El Niño weather phenomenon - has reduced crop yields across southern Africa. Zambian officials say food insecurity and the struggling economy are pushing more people to cut down hardwood trees such as teak, mopane and mukusi, which are in demand for furniture-making and construction.

Despite concerted efforts, Zambia has one of the world's highest deforestation rates per capita. The Forestry Department estimates that 250,000 hectares to 300,000 hectares (617,800 to 741,300 acres) of forest are cleared each year.

This is mainly due to illegal tree cutting, agriculture, charcoal production and human settlement.

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