Victor Maphosa Mash East Correspondent
At least 30 180 hectares in Mashonaland East Province were affected by veld fires in August, an official from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has said.
The statistics, which were gathered by EMA from August 1 to August 28 for Mashonaland East Province, show that there is a sharp increase in areas affected by veld fires in August alone, with Chikomba, Seke, Marondera and Goromonzi districts being the most affected.
In a telephone interview with The Herald on Wednesday, Mashonaland East EMA publicity officer Mr Astas Mabwe said farmers in the most affected districts contributed to veld fires in an effort to eradicate tick-borne diseases.
“There is a surge in veld fires in the province,” he said. “The province experienced high deaths of cattle due to tick-borne disease.
“The reports we are getting from farmers suggests that there is some misinformation pertaining to the control of the tick, especially in Wedza and Chikomba.
“These farmers say they are being urged to burn all grass to control the tick and this could be the major reason in the rise in uncontrolled veld fires.”
Mr Mabwe said EMA would visit the affected areas to investigate the root cause of the uncontrolled fires.
“EMA will, together with relevant Government departments, visit these affected areas,” he said. “It is an offence to start a fire outside a residential area from July 31 until the first rains, or before October 31 every year.”
Mr Mabwe said due to the increase in veld fires, EMA was increasing awareness campaigns with the worst affected districts being given urgent priority.
“We are increasing our awareness meetings and trainings in major affected districts which include Seke, Chikomba, Goromonzi and Marondera,” he said. “These are in the top four of the affected districts in the province.”
Mr Mabwe reminded farmers that fireguards are a requirement.
“EMA urges farmers not to start fires and in case a fire has been started, we urge farmers to fight it,” he said. “We also encourage farmers to construct fireguards on time bearing in mind that it is an offence not to construct a fireguard.”