Protect your homes and pastures from veld fires

Protect your homes and pastures from veld fires

16 March 2011

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Swaziland — Swaziland livestock Technical Services would like to appeal to all livestock owners and the general public living in the countryside to start now making fire breaks to protect their homes and pastures from veld fires this winter.

Your friend would like to urge the Deputy Prime Minister’s office which is responsible for disaster management in the country, Members of Parliament, Chiefs and farmers, to initiate debates and dialogue on how to prevent fire hazards this winter. Failure to act now could result in many uncontrollable fire accidents that will destroy pastures and homes and could also claim human lives.

It is unfortunate that although winter fires cost the country millions of Emalangeni each year, we do not have a national programme to educate citizens on their impact and home and how to prevent them. With the SAPPI Usutu factory already closed down and the country losing many jobs and tax revenue, one would have thought fire prevention would be a top priority in all Tinkhundla-centres-and would be taught in schools like AIDS.

The good rains we received this year has improved grass quality and quantity in all ecological zones in Swaziland, making fire hazards a reality this winter. As a result; there is a dense biomass that can burn ferociously after drying up in winter. The Invasive Alien Plant Species which have taken more that 47 per cent of land in Swaziland will add natural fuel to veld fire and make it uncontrollable even with fire engines. It is frightening that there are many homes in the rural areas of Swaziland that have overgrown grass a few metres from the houses and some of these homes are owned by the elderly people and orphaned and vulnerable children who have a poor understanding of the danger they are exposed to. This is why your friend is urging government and community leaders to start discussing fire hazards and how we can prevent them in our areas. Communities and schools need to start discussing safe ways of using fire at home and safe bee hunting and honey collection in the veld.

Individuals and the community do not have the capacity to stop fire hazards from happening because veld fires can travel long distances destroying homes, pastures and our natural heritage within minutes. Given the fact that fire accidents happen fast and sometimes happen when you are away or at night, we need to be proactive and prevent them by making fire breaks before the winter season starts.

Normally, there is a high soil moisture content in March and April which makes it easy to construct fire breaks in pastures and homes. Forest companies usually make fire breaks at this time of the year.

How to make fire breaks

One can make fire breaks by using heavy plants, and constructing a 6 to 10 metre road around the property. It is advisable that pastures be divided into camps and each camp should have its own fire break. This will make it easy to control a fire. Nevertheless, using heavy plants can be very expensive and a number of people cannot afford it. The second method is carefully using a cold fire in autumn early in the morning and burn around the farm when it is possible to control the fire. The only expense here is labour costs that will be used to control the fire. The third method is using a grass herbicide in autumn that will control grasses.

Your agro-dealer will tell you which herbicide will be most suitable. Spray it around the farm and when the grass has dried up, burn it to create the fire belt that you need to control a veld fire.

Remember, you need good fire breaks around your house and farms. Fire breaks increase your farm accessibility and minimises the risk of veld fires.

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