Zimbabwe –– Obert Chifamba recently in CHIMANIMANI THE decimation of tree plantations by veldfires every year is negatively impacting on the countrys indigenisation and economic empowerment programmes, an official has said.
In a speech read on his behalf at the launch of the Chimanimani Fire Awareness Campaign by Chimanimani district administrator, Mr Wilson Boore recently, Manicaland Governor and Resident Minister Chris Mushohwe said there was no informal sector in the country without plantations. Without forests there is no furniture as there will be no structural timber. The furniture industry accounts for the majority of people in the informal sector.
It is the backbone of our indigenisation and empowerment drive, Governor Mushohwe said. He said the forestry industry formed the backbone of the provinces economy and employed 10 000 people directly at its peak and another 30 000 people in the downstream industries.
If we consider that each employed person is taking care of five people at household level, the forestry industry has a multiplier effect to take care of over 200 000 people in Manicaland alone. Other cities and towns outside Manicaland also depend on the same resource from us, he said.
The Forestry Commission organised the event that was designed to re-emphasise the need for the province and the nation to desist from starting veld fires. Governor Mushohwe said veld fires had become a major environmental problem in the province and throughout Zimbabwe. In 2011 Manicaland lost 22 499 ha of grasslands and forestland to veldfires that wiped out pastures and timber running into thousands of dollars.
It is disheartening to note that most of the fires are started by people. Veld fires destroy vegetation, which houses wildlife resulting in loss of potential tourism revenue. Veldfires also destroy pastures resulting in loss of productivity in livestock while they also destroy the bio-diversity of the environment, said Governor Mushohwe.
He challenged local villagers and plantation owners to work together in reducing and fighting the fires. Manicaland Provincial Forestry Extension manager, Mr Phillip Tomu, said the province was taking the necessary precautions to curb the high incidences of veldfires. We are sensitising the communities and activating all relevant institutions so that we are all geared to prevent and fight veldfires.
The 2012 season is yet to start but we want people to be ready for it, he said. Mr Tomu challenged plantation farmers to co-exist peacefully with adjacent communities and to settle disputes amicably. Some of the fires are allegedly started by people with issues against plantation farmers so there must be every effort to establish harmony between the two camps, said Mr Tomu.
He also lamented the policys lack of adequate resources to react when tracking down suspected arsonists and also urged the police to attend workshops where they would be sensitised on how to identify forest crimes. The police must be able to identify some of the crimes even before somebody makes a report. They should know the crime when they see people committing it.
The Forestry Act stipulates that people who start fires should be prosecuted and be imprisoned for a period of up to two years or pay a fine of US$5 000 depending on the extent of the damage, said Mr Tomu.
Forestry Commission operations manager Mr Steven Zingwena also challenged all Zimbabweans to be patriotic and save the environment as a national resource. He urged districts to set up community based fire management teams that work with Forestry officers at district level to help lower the incidence of fires. This years fire awareness campaign is running under the theme Protect Your Environment Prevent Veldfires.