Tanzania–– WHILE the current dry season is about to end, as farmers anxiously wait for short and heavy rains which usually fall in October and November, it is worth mentioning that Coast Region has greatly suffered a man-made environmental hazard, bushfires.
In some other areas of the country, including Morogoro and Tanga, which have also experienced this environmental hazard, people are said to ignite bushfires for three main reasons. Fire may occur accidentally when dry grass catches sparks from just a little fire lit by honey harvesters at night.
Farmers also ignite fires to clear their farms. When it rains, they would just plant seeds without digging the land and this spares their energy for other difficult tasks.Livestock keepers burn bushes so that their animals enjoy from sprouting fresh grass, which grows soon after rain falls.
However, in Coast Region, particularly Kongowe area on the outskirts of Kibaha District, local area residents have one more reason for setting fire to the farms. They do so to rid their neighbourhood of wild animals and snakes, without a slightest hint of the damage they may have caused to the environment.
Many farms around Misufini, Vikuge, Saeni and Soga villages have been burnt down. The fires have destroyed perennial plants that include coconut palms, cashew and mango trees.The destruction to the environment will affect villagers in a short while.
The otherwise moist land which is their source of water, from where they dig shallow wells, has been laid bare. Soon the wells will dry up due to the direct sun rays and rising temperatures. The villagers have punished no-one but themselves.
The archaic practice of damaging the environment stems from poor understanding of the many benefits of conservation on the part of villagers. That said, the district authorities, especially those from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism face an up-hill task of taking environmental education to the grassroots.
The land office should also be tasked for its obvious failure to reinforce law on land ownership. People who pretend to own land but have never developed it, must count themselves as violators of the Land Act and are thus liable for punishment.
One obvious problem with land allocation in Coast Region is that there are people who freely acquired tracks of land from the village authorities, but did not bother to develop it.Idle land that lies in the middle of villages and which is more or less a forest in the making, is generally considered a bother to villagers.
Since they don’t have power or permission to clear it, the only option and means to rid themselves of the menace is to set it on fire. The authority must therefore intervene and invoke the law to repossess land that has not been developed for many years.
As the rainy season draws nearer, we hope that there will be a different approach to environmental problems, and when grass finally grows in Kibaha District and other areas prone to bushfires, it will never be burnt again.