More than $7 million collected for afforestation efforts to mitigate the damage on forests being caused by small tobacco farmers has not yet been disbursed and sources say that the money has been taken by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA).
Last year the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Matibiri announced that tobacco farmers would start paying 1.5 percent of their earnings as part of efforts to curb deforestation.
Electricity and coal are way beyond the reach of many small holder farmers forcing them to resort to using firewood to cure their tobacco. This has resulted in massive deforestation.
It has however emerged that an excess of $7 million that was raised from the levies has not been availed for the intended purposes. Sources say the money was taken by ZIMRA and may have been used for other purposes.
The money had been sitting idle in the TIMB bank account as the organisation awaited government guidelines on how to utilise the money.
Dr Andrew Matibiri said “The money is with ZIMRA and we are about to submit a proposal for the use of that money. We have now consulted all stakeholders”
He however did not say whether the money is available. Last year he told the state owned Herald that “the fund is in the TIMB account but we (TIMB) need guidelines to utilise it.”
Efforts to get a comment from finance minister Patrick Chinamasa were unsuccessful.
Well placed sources in the Tobacco industry say that the money was taken by the Zimbabwe revenue authority and it has been converted to other uses by the cash strapped government. TIMB have been waiting for instruction from the ministry of Finance on how to utilise the funds but the revenue authority has taken the money.
The Agricultural manager at the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association Mr Casper Mlambo confirmed that they had not yet received part of the $7 million that was realised in collections last year.
He said that they were facing financial problems which had hampered their afforestation efforts. Between 2012 and 2016 the ZTA has overseen the planting of 400000 trees in areas such as Karoi, Odzi and Marondera. He could however not be drawn to speculate about the where-abouts of the money.
It is estimated that the 90000 smallholder tobacco growers destroy 7,5 million trees annually to cure their tobacco.
These efforts are being undermined by a lack of funding as the funds collected for the purpose have allegedly not been availed as the money is said to be sitting with ZIMRA.