Zimbabwe–– Environment and Natural Resources minister Francis Nhema says there has been a significant drop in incidents of veld fires countrywide this year as compared to the same period last year. Addressing villagers at the launch of the Matabeleland North provincial fire awareness campaign at Mathabiswana Primary School in Umguza district last Friday, Nhema attributed the decrease in reported cases of veld fires to education campaigns carried out by the Environmental Management Agency (Ema).
Available statistics reveal that in the year 2011 fire season, 713 770 hectares of land were burnt throughout Zimbabwe, and of these, a total of 79 620 were recorded in the gazetted forests of Matabeleland North province, he said.
It was reported that close to 22 000 hectares were burnt in Umguza district alone by the fire that started in the Maraphosa resettlement scheme. The total forest area destroyed represents a decline of burnt area of about 38% when compared to the 2012 fire season, with fire-related deaths also having gone down nationwide from 25 recorded in 2010 to five deaths in 2011, representing an 80% decline over the same period.
Nhema said the reduction in the number of fire-related deaths and area destroyed by the veld and forest fires could not have been possible without stepping up awareness campaigns.
Since the launch of the National Fire Protection Strategy in Chimanimani in June 2006, my ministry has taken the fire campaigns to the village level so that everyone is made aware and then acts responsibly, he said.
Besides the socio-economic effects, veld and forest fires have negative impacts on flora and fauna. Their effects on standing vegetation are quite evident in most of the countrys landscapes. They destroy young saplings before they develop into mature trees.
City officials estimated that more than 300 people died in the fire and over 100 000 were left homeless.