Zimbabwe — The public should guard against uncontrolled fires as they have a devastative effect on the growth of the agricultural sector and the environment, officials have said.
Environment Management Agency (EMA), Department of Veterinary Services and the Department of Agricultural and Technical Extension Services (Agritex) officials on Tuesday said publics should refrain from starting veld fires. Veld fires have a negative impact on anticipated crop yield and livestock restocking. Destruction of vegetation by fires reduces ground cover and loosens the soil particles so much that when it rains, there is too much water run off triggering subsequent soil erosion. The formation of gullies reduces the grazing area. The eroding soil fills up dams and rivers causing siltation. This means less water for livestock during the critical dry seasons, said EMAs Matabeleland North provinces chief officer, Ms Chipo Mpofu. Continuous fires of great intensity on a given area wipe out species that cannot withstand infernos resulting in the growth of invader plants, which are not useful as pastures. The fires upset the areas biodiversity. Ms Mpofu said the fires also contribute to climate change through the destruction of trees and through the carbon dioxide that is emitted during the burning process. Climate change impacts negatively on both crop and livestock. New research is required to come up with seed or stock varieties or breeds that are tolerant to the new conditions. Also there tends to be increases in the occurrence of droughts and floods, Ms Mpofu said. The Bulawayo provincial Agritex officer, Mr Dumisani Nyoni said veld fires have negative effects on both livestock and crop production thus the need to guard against uncontrolled infernos. Veld fire destroys feed which is meant to be consumed by livestock and nutrients on the fields. The organic matter of stovers improves soil structure and fertility, we therefore dont encourage land clearing by fires, he said. He said bare ground is prone to wind and water erosion during the rainy season culminating in the washing away of the nutrients contained in the topsoil. If the rain comes when the field is bare, the top soil is washed away opening room for wind erosion to get rid of all the vital nutrients. Burning also compacts the soil resulting in water run offs meaning that the water is prevented from percolation, Mr Nyoni said. However, fires could come good in tick control and in reducing mori-buds that hamper the rejuvenation of new shoots.