Where is Our Forest?


Originally Published on oblatemissions.org

By Evans Chinyama Chinyemba, OMI, Bishop of Mongu

In Zambia’s Mongu Diocese, Bp. Evans Chinyemba, OMI has been a strong advocate for the protection of the environment. He has spoken out against government and business leaders who see the land
as a source of profit instead of a common benefit to be shared by all people. Here Bp. Chinyemba writes about one particular problem in Mongu, the irresponsible cutting of trees.

Zambian logging truck

“There comes a time when it is correct to say enough is enough and let us start a new way of life or else we shall perish and the future generations will forever be deprived of their livelihood.  This is the case with us in Mongu Diocese. Pope Francis calls us to reflect on what is happening to our common home, which is a call to reflect on the story of creation that is crying.”

“The Holy Father has challenged our attitude towards our environment.  For us in Mongu Diocese, he speaks to us through what we see around us in terms of degradation of our forest.”

“In the last few months I have traveled to places like Mangango, Senanga and Kaoma and the areas around Sitaka leading to Lukulu.  I have seen the careless cutting of trees for timber, charcoal and poles. In the areas of Mongu to Kaoma, we see stacks and stacks of charcoal and recently cut trees for housing purposes. Our forest is under attack and is rapidly being depleted.

“Another problem is how we are catching caterpillars (part of the local diet). Caterpillar collectors cut almost every tree that has caterpillars on them. They collect caterpillars as if there is no tomorrow, and this is bad for our environment.  Some species of trees in the near future will not be found. When this happens, there will be no caterpillars. The same people cutting trees will turn and complain as to what has happened to caterpillars.”

“We have to ask: who gives the people who are destroying our forests license to undertake such activities. Is the government doing the necessary monitoring?  Should we continue watching this happening without raising our concerns and calling for a change of attitude toward our environment? Is there anyone who is involved in replanting the trees that are being cut?”

“My appeal is that the traditional leadership, the government and the community should work together to address the damage being done to our forest before it is too late. Taking care of our forest now, will mean saving our lives and that of the generations to come.”