Zimbabwe — MORE than 200 000 hectares of land has been destroyed by veld fires countrywide as the hot and dry season approaches its peak.
Mashonaland West has the largest area of about 128 754 hectares of land so far destroyed by the fires, a situation that has contributed to the shortage of pastures for livestock. In an interview at the Harare Agricultural Show on Monday, Environmental Management Agency education and publicity manager Mr Rambwayi Mapako said this year’s total percentage of veld fires was likely to be reduced by 41 percent from last year’s.
“As of August 16, 2013, statistics revealed that Mashonaland West, among other provinces, had recorded the biggest hectarage of land destroyed due to veld fires with a total of 128 754. Hurungwe district was mostly hit by shortages of grazing pastures resulting from these fires.
“This year has been assessed to be a dry year and this means livestock and wild animals in this region may have poor quality pastures. The situation could be worsened by uncontrolled forest fires, he said.
He said the increase in veld fires in Mashonaland West had been attributed to poor farming methods, lack of preventive measures and high fuel load. Mr Mapako challenged villagers to refrain from starting veld fires as the economic development of the province was at stake.
“All stakeholders should come on board and play their part in conserving the forests and raising awareness on the need to prevent forest fires.
Mr Mapako said that people should not only report forest fires but they should not start fires and fight to extinguish those that occur. Meanwhile, farmers have expressed concern over the increase in veld fires, a practice they said was hampering their agricultural activities.
Banket farmer Mr Tendai Chaonamumwe said an increase in veld fires had left many farmers who depend on the veld for grazing stranded.
“We no longer have anywhere to graze our livestock because of people who carelessly cause fires,” he said.
Mr Chaonamumwe said although Agritex officers, police and environmentalists had carried out awareness campaigns against veld fires, the practice had continued around farming areas.
“We call on Government to introduce a stiff penalty maybe the situation may improve,” he said.
Bulawayo has reported 91 cases of veld fires. In Harare 1 521 hectares of land has been destroyed by fire with Midlands losing 7 612 ha. In Matabeleland South 4 285ha, Matabeleland North 7440ha, Masvingo 3 325ha and Mashonaland East 28 391ha were destroyed. In Mashonaland Central 18 942 hectares were destroyed by veld fires. EMA advised farmers to work as communities to fight against veld fires.