(Bloomberg) -- Zambia ordered the director of forestry to stop issuing permits for charcoal production in three districts in a bid to halt deforestation and fight climate change.

Persons in possession of valid Cord Wood Permits in Itezhi-tezhi, Mumbwa and Shibuyunji districts have until May 1 to finalize charcoal production, the southern African nation’s Green Economy and Environment Minister, Collins Nzovu said in a statement Monday. More districts will be added as the Forestry Department assesses tree stock levels across the country, he said. 

The ban follows increased levels of deforestation and land degradation due to the illegal and massive cutting down of trees for charcoal production, Nzovu said. “Zambia is currently experiencing a climate crisis of unprecedented proportions, characterized by record high temperatures, reaching around 40 degrees during the months of February and March,” he said.

The dry spell, blamed on the El Niño weather phenomenon, has withered crops, fanned inflation, and affected hydropower generation.

The reduction in generation has led Zambia to introduce power cuts lasting at least eight hours a day, which usually cause more people to turn to charcoal as fuel for cooking.

In February, its President Hakainde Hichilema declared Africa’s second-biggest copper producer’s worst drought on record for large parts of the country a national disaster and emergency.

Preserving forests is increasingly being seen as a bulwark against climate change. Trees absorb and store carbon, lessening the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Read More: Zambian President Declares Drought a National Disaster 

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