Zimbabwe — Nokuthaba Mathema Chronicle Reporter ABOUT 80 000 hectares of land in Matabeleland North was last year destroyed by veld fires, a development that has contributed to the shortage of pastures for livestock. Last year, five people died and 347 356 hectares of land were destroyed by veld fires throughout the country.Revealing the statistics yesterday, the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Francis Nhema at the provincial fire awareness campaign in Bubi district, in a speech read on his behalf by the director of Environment in the Ministry, Mr Irvin Kunene said 75 percent of land destroyed in the province was in Lupane district.
I am reliable informed that last year alone 80 000 hectares of the forest land across Matabeleland North province was destroyed by veld fires, said Minister Nhema.
He said Tsholotsho district was hit by shortages of grazing pastures.
This year has been assessed to be a dry year and this means livestock and wild animals in this region may have poor quality pastures. The situation could be worsened by uncontrolled forest fires.
Tsholotsho district is already reported to be facing shortage of pastures and other districts in the province could face the same problem, said Minister Nhema.
He said his ministry had started granting grazing leases to communities living near gazetted forests.
Minister Nhema challenged villagers to refrain from starting veld fires as the economic development of the province was at stake.
I call upon all stakeholders to come on board and play their part in conserving the forests and raising awareness on the need to prevent forest fires.
As we enter the fire season, let us not only report forest fires but to also desist from starting fires and to fight and extinguish fires that do occur.
Uncontrollable forest fires destroy forest resource, which are significant contributors to the economy of the province which is endowed with indigenous hardwood timber species, such as teak and mchibi which are used to make high quality furniture sold in and out of the country, said Minister Nhema.
The vice-president of the Chiefs Council of Zimbabwe, Chief Mtshane Khumalo said there was a high prevalence of veld fire incidents along the Nkayi-Bulawayo road.
As the Bubi district community, we have to be on the lookout for veld fires and make sure that they are prevented so that grazing land is preserved, he said.
According to the ministry, about 330 000 hectares of land is lost in the country because of deforestation every year.