The Ministry of Green Economy and Environment has announced the introduction of Honorary Forest Officers (HFOs) to fortify the protection and preservation of Zambia’s vital forests.
Permanent Secretary Dr. Douty Chibamba unveiled this initiative during the official opening of the Forestry Department Honorary Forestry Officers Manual Validation Workshop, supported by the Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape Project.
Dr. Chibamba emphasized that the appointment of HFOs marks a significant step in the government’s strategy to empower local communities and traditional leaders in forest management.
HFOs, nominated by their respective communities, undergo screening by the Forestry Department and clearance by the Zambia Police Service before being appointed by the Minister of Green Economy and Environment.
Under the Forests Act No. 4 of 2015, gazetted HFOs assume the responsibilities of forestry officers, contributing to the enforcement of forest laws and regulations.
Additionally, Community Forest Management Regulations provide for the inclusion of HFOs in the management structures of Community Forest Management Groups, ensuring community involvement in forest management.
Dr. Chibamba underscored the pivotal role of HFOs in implementing Community Forest Management Plans, essential for sustainable forest management.
Training for HFOs incorporates non-formal adult learning approaches, fostering effective communication and practical skill development.
Post-training, HFOs are expected to possess a comprehensive understanding of their role in combating deforestation, applying forest laws, and managing various forest-related situations.
They will also disseminate knowledge gained from training to enhance community forestry practices and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.
Mr. Noel Muchimba, National Coordinator of the Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape Project, emphasized the importance of maintaining forests for their diverse roles in supporting various activities.
He highlighted the threat of illegal forest activities to biodiversity, ecosystems, and climate change.
With the recent gazettement of 1300 HFOs trained under the guidance of the Forestry Department, Zambia demonstrates a proactive approach to safeguarding its natural heritage and supporting sustainable forest management practices.
The introduction of HFOs signifies a collaborative effort between the government and the public to ensure the protection and preservation of Zambia’s forests for the benefit of present and future generations.