EMA hails drastic decrease in veld fires

John Murwira Mash West Correspondent
Mashonaland West province witnessed a drastic reduction in the total area affected by veld fires this year from 539 134 hectares last year to 41 800 hectares, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has said.

EMA education and publicity officer Mr Munyaradzi Nhariswa said last year 539 134 hectares were burnt by veld fires in the province compared to 41 800 hectares this year. The reduction by about 500 000 hectares is phenomenal and has been attributed to community involvement. Mr Nhariswa said much progress in reducing the hectarage lost to veld fires has been witnessed in Hurungwe, Makonde and Kariba districts.

“Hurungwe, which had more than 249 850 hectares burnt in 2016 had 151 021ha (burnt) this fire season, Kariba had 71 813,02ha burnt in 2016 had 33 155,85ha burnt this year and Makonde, which also had 135 569,7ha burnt last year had 66 060,04ha burnt this year,” said Mr Nhariswa.

He said Chegutu district had a slight increase in veld fires from 48 812,42ha burnt during the last fire season to 56 073,86ha burnt this season.

“Sanyati had 26 710,91ha in 2016 and 29 680,97ha burnt this year, Zvimba 92 488,37ha last year and 92 629,51ha this year, Mhondoro 6 378,43ha lost last year and 19 065,73ha this year,” he said.

Mr Nhariswa said a total of 111 fire cases were attended to this fire season and there were three fire related deaths recorded in Hurungwe, Chegutu and Zvimba districts.

“Over 300 tonnes of grain comprising maize, wheat, ground nuts and beans was also lost during this year fire season,” said Mr Nhariswa.

He said the province recorded a loss in household property.

“Household items lost include blankets, clothes, solar panels and radios. Other things lost were knapsacks, irrigation pipes, livestock, gum and banana plantations gardens and orchards, one passenger bus,” said Mr Nhariswa.

Mr Nhariswa said as EMA they were overwhelmed with the drastic decrease in veld fires which he highly attributed to the engagement, which was done with chiefs and the local leadership.

“The decrease in veld fires this year can be attributed to the engagement we had with traditional leaders who helped us reach out to their communities to effectively implement veld fire management measures. The contribution of chiefs’ community fire fighting teams and clubs was effective, which made it possible to realise a reduction in the area affected by veld fires,” he said.

Mr Nhariswa urged farmers and communities to continue being mindful of the way they interact with fire and to put in place fire suppression measures in the form of fire guards, training of fire fighting teams.

“Communities should always seek guidance from their respective chiefs, headmen, village heads, councillors, environment sub committees, environmental monitors, fire fighting teams. Communities should also continuously report all those who start fires to traditional leaders, local authorities, EMA, ZRP and the Forestry Commission,” he said.

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