Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe continues to lose human and animal lives as well as property running into millions of dollars to veld fires every year despite spirited campaigns against starting veld fires by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).
The major culprits have over the years been new farmers clearing land for ploughing while most veld fires along the countrys highways have been blamed on careless motorists throwing away smouldering cigarette stubs. Hunters of small game have also been accused of starting veld fires.
The veld fires do not only kill people and animals that include game and livestock but also destroy the vegetation. Since the start of the fire season last month, large tracts of land are without vegetation as a result of veld fires. Land stretching from Shangani River up to Insiza store along the Bulawayo-Harare highway is now barren after vegetation was destroyed by veld fires last week.
According to a story we carried yesterday vegetation on hundreds of hectares was destroyed following a veld fire that broke out in the Matetsi, Kazungula and Katombora areas in Matabeleland North province last week, forcing wild animals to relocate to either Botswana or Zambia.
The situation is reported to be the same in many parts of the country. Farmers in some areas are now being forced to provide supplementary feeding to their livestock because pastures have been destroyed by veld fires. According to EMA, vegetation on 180 000 hectares of land countrywide have been destroyed by veld fires since the beginning of the year.
The country although it recorded a 38 percent reduction in fire incidences last year compared to the previous year, the figures are still very disturbing. According to statistics released by EMA vegetation on 713 770 hectares was destroyed by veld fires last year compared to 1 152 413 hectares the previous year when 25 human lives were lost to veld fires giving a difference of 438 643 hectares.
The fire incidences, as already alluded to, remain high and there is therefore need for concerted efforts to reduce veld fires. Veld fires are started by people and therefore can be stopped. EMA has covered a lot of ground in educating the people on the dangers of starting veld fires and it is time communities take action. The communities should ensure that the undesirable elements that start veld fires are brought to book. The community leaders should put in place measures that compel new farmers clearing the land to put in place measures to control the fires before starting the fires such as putting up fireguards.
What individuals should appreciate is that by starting veld fires they are putting the lives of people as well as both game and livestock at risk. The country cannot afford to continue losing lives and property to veld fires that could be avoided. Wild animals such as elephants that have been forced to relocate to countries such as Zambia and Botswana following outbreaks of veld fires in Matabeleland North might not return and this is a great loss to the country.
The legislators on their part should come up with deterrent sentences for those found guilty of starting veld fires. It is ridiculous to fine a person $50 for putting the lives of people and animals at risk through starting veld fires.
We want to once again urge each and every Zimbabwean to play his or her part in preventing veld fires. The new farmers must take seriously the issue of putting up fireguards as they help stop the spread of veld fires that continue to cause havoc to both people and animals.