Community participation key to veld fire management

  Community participation key to veld fire management

26 April 2017

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Zimbabwe-  Veld fire have become a persistent environmental challenge in Zimbabwe destroying natural resources, property and life.

They normally break out during the dry season and are most prevalent in the period August to October because the velds will be dry and there is prevailing hot-windy weather conditions.

Veld fire statistics at a glance

Zimbabwe each year loses over a million hectares to veld fires. The impact of these blazes has been loss of natural resources, valuable and life.

Reports indicate that most fires are a result of the following human activities; land clearing, cigarette smoking, hunting, be smoking and fires made along roadsides by people while awaiting for transport or during breakdowns.

How do communities participate in fighting veld fires?

Managing veld fires is a complex issue that requires a holistic and multi- stakeholder approach. Communities are the landlords, occupiers, users of land, and thus they are an important stakeholder in fighting fires. Communities can be defined by their way of living or role in leadership structure in into groups that includes traditional leadership, farmers, miners, school children, among others. If every group play their part in fighting veld fires, can reduce the adverse impacts of the fire scourge.

Traditional and local leaders

Traditional and local leaders being the custodians of our natural resources are encouraged to:

• Spearhead the construction of standard fireguards in their communities
• Establish fire – fighting teams within the local communities who will lead the rest of the community in extinguishing veld fires.
• Use traditional courts to sanction veld fire offenders.
• Keep a record of all the veld fire occurrences in their areas
• Hold fire awareness meetings and campaigns throughout the fire season.
• Establish a veld fire alert system in every village such as drum beat, bell/gong or whistle.


According to the Forest Act (Chapter 19:05) as read with Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 Environmental Management (Environmental impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection) Regulations; land owners or occupies are to put take fire preventive measure before the onset of the fire season. Farms are supposed to:

• Make standard fireguards which are 9m wide on either side of the farm boundaries and also internal fireguards which 4.5m around valuable resources/property
• Inspect fireguards regularly to make sure that they are free of any combustible material.
• Ensure that fire- fighting equipment such as; water filled knapsack sprayers and bowsers, fire beaters and sacks are at an accessible point during the fire season.
• Report all fire incidences to the nearest ZRP or EMA offices within 7 days.
• Have fire alert systems such as drums, whistles and bells;
• Listen to weather personnel on the fire danger index so as improve your state of preparedness

School children

This is a very important stakeholder group and we are concerned with their safety which can be compromised by veld fires. School children should:

• Not try to cross over veld fires as this may result in fire related fatalities.
• Immediately report fire incidences to adults such as parents or teachers before the fires spread and should not in any way attempt to extinguish the fires in the absence of adults.
• Never climb trees in trying to flee from a veld fire as both the tree and the children could be burnt to death.
Bee smokers, cigarette smokers, motorists and travelers

• Smokers can play their roles in veld fire management by ensuring that they extinguish their cigarette stubs before throwing them away to avoid veld fires.
• Motorists should ensure that car electrical systems are serviced and loose mechanical parts such as the exhaust must be tightened to avoid veld fires emanating from sparks so created after getting in contact with the grass on the road servitude as you drive.
• Do not drive through fire flames or areas where your vision is obscured by smoke from veld fires.
• Travelers boarding early morning buses should completely extinguish road side fires used to keep warm while waiting for transport. This can be done water or moist soil.

We are now in the fire season- don’t start fire outside your residential or commercial premises.

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