Zimbabwe — Veld fires and electric power accidents remain a nightmare for all during the winter season.
Quite often in an attempt to keep themselves warm many people have put electric heaters on, lit some fires in their houses or in the bush, which have unfortunately gone wild destroying property, homes, the veld and sometimes killing people in the process. A drive along most highways in Zimbabwe shows that the scourge of veld fire is consuming millions of plants and animal species, as members of the public watch helplessly. Valuable forests both indigenous and exotic such as those in Matabeleland North and Manicaland have been destroyed by such fires, resulting in the country losing millions of dollars in potential timber revenue. It is for this reason that the Government, local authorities, NGOs and traditional leaders have over the years been conducting outreach programmes with a view to discouraging people from starting fires but with very little success. Households have also been discouraged from leaving heaters or fires on, overnight or in a house where there are children as history has shown that this can be very dangerous. Some careless practices that have caused veld fires have been bee honey harvesting, fires that are abandoned at bus stations as soon as a lift arrives, clearing of fields or cooking by poachers after killing an animal. Some farmers start veld fires under the impression that it helps in improving pastures without first putting up fire guards to restrict it to the area they want to clear. As part of efforts to educate people on how to deal with veld fires the Environmental Management Agency last week conducted a mock fire-fighting exercise in Nyamandlovu for resettled farmers on how to respond to a fire outbreak. The EMA manager, Mrs Chipo Mpofu-Zuze, said during the occasion that people should be proactive in stopping the spread of fires, as it was a crime ignoring it as it destroys forests. We are in the fire season and veld fires have been of concern to many people. We are trying to teach them how to act when a veld fire breaks out as well as preventing it, said Mrs Mpofu-Zuze. We would like to congratulate EMA for its efforts to empower communities to fight veld fires and urge all other institutions and individuals to complement this effort. Trees that communities and companies have nurtured for years are destroyed overnight by veld fires. Fires destroy pastures leaving cattle, donkeys, and wild animals without food. It also exposes the topsoil to agents of erosion, which wash away fertile soils and thus adversely affecting productive agriculture. While the Government and other organisations such as EMA can shout at the top of their voices warning people against starting veld fires, we believe the onus is on individuals to conduct themselves responsibly. Here we are talking about a man who is lighting a cigarette, boys who are harvesting honey in some forest or warming themselves at a bus stop while waiting for transport to the city. We are appealing to your sense of right and wrong to tell you what is good for Zimbabwe. You should ask yourself how many trees, snakes, and rats you are going to kill with your fire and with what consequences. We need to go through some introspection. These are our trees, our animals; we need to look after them for now and for posterity. Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to conserve and preserve our fauna and flora. Let is all protect our environment.