By Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture
Government has authorised the Forestry Commission to handle 50 percent of the money collected from farmers under the tobacco levy for use in afforestation programmes. The levy was introduced by Government in 2015 for afforestation and was levied on all tobacco farmers at a rate of 1,5 percent in the first year and 0,75 percent in subsequent years.
The money had not been used since 2015 as the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, which was collecting it, had not been given the directive on how the funds will be disbursed to farmers.
The money, which had been ring-fenced for afforestation, was meant to be used for the establishment of 20 000 hectares of woodlots per year for the next five years.
Presenting the 2019 annual Budget recently, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said the administration of the tobacco levy by the TIMB had not served its intended purpose of financing conservation initiatives in the country.
“In terms of the Forestry Act (Chapter 19: 05) and the Communal land Forest produce Act. The Forestry Commission is mandated to conduct forestry extension services within communities countrywide; promote tree seedling production, tree planting, conservation of trees and forests and enforcing forest legislation,” he said.
“In this regard, it is proposed that 50 percent of the proceeds from the tobacco levy be transferred to the Forestry Commission to enable the parastatal to undertake its programmes in line with the mandate.”