Veld fires affect economy

Veld fires affect economy

12 June 2013

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Botswana — Veld fires impacts negatively on the country’s economic cornerstones; beef and tourism industries, says the chairperson of conservation committee for Central District Council (CDC) ,Mr Allec Utlwang.

Officiating at a basic veld fire management training at Makoba gate recently, Mr Utlwang said it was imperative to manage veld fires in order to minimise the adverse impact on our valuable resources.

He said central district, like other districts was grappling with recurring bush fires that destroy large chunks of land every year.

He said in 2011/12 at least 1.5 million hectares in the district was gutted by fire. However, the number was drastically reduced to 200 000 in the year 2012/13.

Mr Utlwang attributed the reduction to the prolonged drought period which led to reduction in the fuel load, thus burnable materials.

“Central is one of the district that experiences high veld fire outbreaks in the country” he said. He pointed out that every year a significant hectarage of land was being gutted by uncontrolled wild land fires and in some instances there were loss of life and property.

He outlined that the areas which were normally affected by veld fires are Boteti, Serowe, and Mahalapye and Tutume sub district.

“Western sand-veld, Kaka and 4B Nata state land ranches are also the hardest hit by ravaging veldfires.” he explained.

In an effort to manage veld fires, Mr Utlwang said the department of Forestry and resources has embarked on a number of initiatives to prevent or and control veld fires such as awareness campaigns, training on fire management , Fire breaks maintenance and establishment of fire fighting teams in the district.

He called on farmers to assist government in reducing veld fires.

For his part, the secretary of Sand-veld ranchers association, Mr Bathusi Letlhare expressed disappointment over lack of attendance by farmers especially ranch owners and ranch workers despite their outcry on veld fires at their ranches.

Mr Letlhare noted that the training would empower the participants with precaution when dealing with bush fires and give effective means of managing them.

Meanwhile, the scientific officer for Animal production department in Serowe, Mr Kgotso Oteng has warned that perpetual recurring of veld fires could lead to extinction of some desirable vegetation. He said some of the vegetation species were palatable and nutritious to animals.

Therefore, he said if the natural vegetation was not conserved the beef industry would decline since the only vegetation that would be left would be less nutritious and unpalatable to animals.

Mr Oteng also decried poor attendance by farmers especially ranch owners.

Senior technical assistant for forestry and range resources department in Serowe, Mr Olebile Kolojane stated that recurring veld fire leads to poor vegetation.

For example, he said “we use to have Mokolwane tree in some parts of the country but today the tree has disappeared due to recurring bush fires.” Ultimately, he said recurring bush fires would lead to desertification

He said “during veld fires, there is mortality of livestock and wild animals, and this impact negatively on the tourism industry.”

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