South Africa — The MEC for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in the Northern Cape Norman Shushu said proactive measures should be taken to speed up assistance to farmers affected by veld fires in the province. MEC Shushu was commenting after visiting and assessing farms that were ravaged by veld fires in Koopmansfontein in the Frances Baard District last Friday 10 September 2010. The aim of the MECs visit was to establish the extent of the damage caused by veld fires in the area. About 18000 hectares of grazing land in Koopmansfontein and 19060 in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality have been ravaged by veld fires. The Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development has assembled about 80 tons of lucerne to the tune of about R320 000 as an emergency relief to assist the affected farmers in both municipalities. The MEC also expressed his gratitude to all role players like the police, farm workers, the officials of the department, fire fighters and farmers in their efforts to extinguish the fires. Motorist and pedestrians are requested not to throw away cigarette butts as they are contributing to veld fires. Annually veld fires result in disastrous losses of natural grazing, animals, infrastructure and some instances can lead to the loss of human lives. Veld fires are a serious threat to the agricultural sector and land users/farmers are requested to adhere to the following: ensure fire-fighting equipments is easily accessible and in good condition, be aware of and participate in the Local Fire Protection Association (FPA) activities and plans, control and restrict open fires (eg creation of veld fire belts) and monitor the farm/ land for possible veld fires regularly and report veld fires immediately to the Local Fire Protection Association, municipalities, Extension Officers and the South African Police and have their contact numbers at hand. These sporadic blazes are mainly fuelled by the dry state of the vegetation as well as the prevailing winds during this period of the year and result in runaway veld fires. In its effort to combat this problem the department has distributed 45 Fire Fighting Units and trained about 45 people on the effective and safe handling of fire fighting equipment, as well as practical fire fighting methods. The Departments Sustainable Resource Management division will continuously monitor the conditions and warnings will be issued to stakeholders.