Cletus Mushanawani Mash Central Bureau
GOLD panning and poor farming methods are threatening agricultural productivity in the country’s food basket of Mashonaland Central.
Environmental Management Agency’s provincial manager Mr Robert Rwafa said last week that most water bodies in the province were being threatened by water contamination and siltation.
“There is a serious conflict between gold mining and agriculture production,” he said. “Gold panning is rampant in this province, especially in Mazowe, Bindura and Mt Darwin districts. These illegal mining activities are threatening the country’s food basket as Mashonaland Central is known for.
“The illegal gold mining activities are threatening downstream farming activities because the rivers are becoming polluted and silted. This is not good for irrigation. There is need to strike a balance between these two major economic activities. The artisanal miners need to survive and contribute to the national fiscus, while the farmer needs to feed the nation.”
Mr Rwafa said the use of chemicals like sodium cyanide and red mercury was becoming a mortal threat to both humans and animals.
“The haphazard mining activities need to be controlled if we have to preserve the environment,” he said. “We have been trying to engage the artisanal miners, but some of them run away from us whenever we visit them. There is also need for political will to curb this problem as some of the artisanal miners are protected by politicians.
“We are happy with the stance taken by President Emmerson Mnangagwa during his tour of the province last week when he called for planned mineral extraction. If the highest office in the land called for orderliness, we hope those who were condoning illegal activities will heed that call.
“We have also engaged the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation in educating artisanal miners on the importance of preserving the environment. This comes after we realised that some villagers in the Rosa area of Chiweshe have resorted to panning at their respective homes. These people leave big gullies, which are dangerous to both humans and animals. These gullies are also becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”
Mr Rwafa bemoaned poor farming methods like stream bank and stream bed cultivation in areas like Mbire that were contributing to siltation of water bodies.
“This problem is rampant in tobacco producing areas,” he said. “In areas like Mbire, some villagers have vegetable gardens right on the middle of rivers.
“In Rushinga, the Mugabe Bridge was condemned after it was silted. Sand is now covering the bridge, making the road impassible.”
Mr Rwafa said modern farming methods where some farmers were resorting to use of chemicals to control weeds were contributing to the pollution of rivers.
“We are now grappling with the problem of invasive alien species like the water hyacinth in our water bodies,” he said. “The poorly applied chemicals in the fields, which are washed away by rains are giving the invasive alien species enough nutrients to grow.
“Some of the affected water bodies include Lillystock Dam, which borders Bindura South and Mazowe North constituencies. Mazowe and Ruya rivers have also been affected. Mazowe River is to us like the River Nile to the Egyptians and once its water levels are affected, many farmers in Mashonaland Central are left to count their losses.
“We need to encourage sustainable development, which will help to sustain the future. We should not bite the hand that feeds us. There is also need of change of attitude on issues to do with environmental management.”