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Firewood – Paying the Price

In principle there is absolutely nothing wrong with earning a living from the offerings of our natural environment. After all, the environment is there for human sustenance and enjoyment. That is why it is very important to strike a balance when interacting with nature, we must always strive to give to it as much as we take from it. The protection of the symbiotic
relationship we have with the environment is the only way we can ensure that all the beauty that is around us will be there for future generations.

In Swaziland, it has become customary for a lot of low income extra-urban households to generate income by selling firewood on the roadside. The cold winter months are peak season where sales are concerned, however it is also that time of the year when a great environmental threat escalates to potentially dangerous levels. The wood sold must come from somewhere, unfortunately it comes from the forests around their neighbourhoods. The problem is that most (if not all) of these “wood vendors” are oblivious of the effect that their business has on the environment. What is happening here is a systemic deforestation, and much to the misfortune of the environment, the people carrying out this attack on it do not
have rehabilitation measures in place. The inevitable results range from soil erosion, wildfire fuel from saw dust, to disappearance of certain wildlife species.

From a policy perspective, the government of Swaziland must intervene. However, intervention must be sensitive to the needs of the vendors and their communities. For many, selling firewood is their only source of income. So this is when proper consultation and negotiations become necessary. In my humble view, policy should firstly be driven towards
educating vendors about the environment and its importance. It is pointless and counterproductive to ask of anyone to protect something, the value of which they do not appreciate.

Thus it is for the Minister responsible for the Environment and Natural Resources, the Swaziland Environmental Authority, and Non-Governmental Organisations concerned with environmental issues to launch outreach campaigns in this regard. Secondly, rehabilitation and reforestation measures must be introduced and employed rigorously.

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