Veld fires ‘flame’ Zimbabwe’s economy

Veld fires ‘flame’ Zimbabwe’s economy

16 May 2012

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Zimbabwe — Over the years, Zimbabwe has experienced the scourge of veld fires destroying property worth thousands of dollars. Last year about in 714 000 hectares of land was ‘chewed’ by veld fires and according to the Meteorological Office , the season were the risk of veld fires are high is once again upon us. Environment activists said threat not only the environment is destroyed by veld fires but the entire economic.
Henry Madhiri, an environment activist said the country is loosing a lot of revenue through veld fires.

“Apart from the forests which are ‘chewed’ by the fires, sectors such as tourism and agriculture are also affected. Tourism thrives on wild animals and these animals are killed by veld fires and in some cases crops ready for harvest is destructed,” said Madhiri.

Veld Fires emanating from newly resettled farmers last year destroyed a total of 1 694.3 hectares of timber in Manicaland.

The statistics released by the Timber Producers Federation (TPF) cited Chimanimani and Nyanga districts as the most affected areas.

The TPF statistics show that between July and November last year , 257 forest fires were reported and destroyed 9 586 hectares of timber which constitutes 12 per cent of Zimbabwe’s pine population.

Pine is grown on a 25-year rotation and the area affected by the fires was equivalent to what would normally be harvested in a three year period.

Fires emanating from neighbouring newly resettled areas destroyed a total of 1 694.3 hectares, with honey hunters and human negligence also contributing to the veld fires.

Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management, Francis Nhema said it is unfortunate that environmental degradation has weakened the natural resource base on which human activity ultimately depends.

Minister Nhema said the government’s restocking program has been grossly undermined by the veld fires which over the past years have been destroying the grass lands.

In Zimbabwe veld fires is a single significant threat to national economic recovery plans as they are destroying not only pastures necessary for the restocking exercise, but also foreign currency
generating plantations.

Food security may be compromised as the past few years have seen fires burning wheat farms, maize fields among other valuables.

“The country’s turnaround strategy is rooted in our natural resources but unfortunately this natural capital is under threat from veld fires hence my plea with all of you to fight this monster,” Nhema said.

He bemoaned how veld fires have been at the centre of resources and property destruction.

According to the Minister at least 1 152 413 hectares of land were affected by veld fires countrywide of which 2 907.7 ha were plantation areas.

He also noted that infrastructure worth over US$ 227 214 was gutted down by fires countrywide.
“As a nation we cannot afford the continued loss of life and valuables resulting from avoidable human error,” Nhema said.

Chief Zvimba said uncontrolled fires that led to loss of at least four lives in the province had led to the disruption of traditional rituals at sacred places such as Nyakasikana.

“There has been a lot of destruction caused by fires and as traditional leaders we are worried when these fires disturb our traditional rites at places such as Nyakasikana and more should be
done to achieve zero cases of fires in the country,” he said.

Despite the importance of forests and woodlands to the economy, there has been a general increase of uncontrolled fires in the whole country, with Manicaland being one of the worst affected.

Launching the 2012 National Fire Week at a press briefing in Harare, Environment and Natural Resources Management Minister Francis Nhema said his ministry has this year noted with concern that the country does not have enough livestock feed hence the need for communities to
stop veld fires that are destroying grazing land.

He said traditional chiefs will prosecute individuals who start fires that are undermining the country’s ongoing government cattle restocking programme.

“Systematic ecological and localized environmental degradation is becoming highly prominent as a result of uncontrolled fires.”

“This lowers the natural resilience of ecosystems to disaster impact and delays recovery. Veld fires also destroy grazing land,” he said.

ZERO Regional Environment Organisation Acting Director, Sheppard Zvigadza and Environment Africa Country Director, Barnabas Mawire said the problem of veld fires require collaborative effort and the adoption of necessary fire preventive measures by communities.

A number of fire outbreaks have already been recorded this season alone with one farmer in Mashonaland central losing a combine harvester, farm equipment and his tons of maize crop.

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