By Marlvin Ngiza
Citizens have been challenged to preserve the natural ecosystem and ensure that safety measures against veld fires have been put in place in order to avoid the loss of lives and valuables as the veld fire season approaches with the risk for 2021 season predicted to be extreme.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Educational and Publicity Manager, Amkela Sidanke in a statement, said the good rains received in the season 2020/2021 rainy season have resulted in enrichment of biomass in natural ecosystems which provides a conducive environment for veld fires hence the need for farmers and communities to be responsible and alert especially those in veld fires hotspots.
“Following the normal to above normal rains that Zimbabwe received in the 2020/21 rainy season, there has been a significant record increase in biomass across the country. To that effect, veld fire risk prediction for 2021 recently done by Environmental Management Agency (EMA) using satellite imaging, shows that about 89% of the country is lying in the high to extremely high risk to veld fires, compared to a meagre 34% in 2020. Generally, the country is in the high-risk category of 65.2% to the extreme risk category of 24.7% to veld fires.
“Emphasis is however to communities at risk and all entities with a stake in veld fire management, to take responsibility by ensuring fires are prevented at all cost as the country thrives to achieve the 25% target reduction in a land lost to veld fires in 2021, in line with the dictates of the National Development Strategy (NDS1) on reduction of land burnt by veld fires. Achieving this calls for all stakeholders to use the 2021 veld fire risk projection given as a planning tool towards finding lasting solutions in veld fire prevention, and also for the same stakeholders to collaborate and perpetuate the same vision of attaining zero tolerance to veld fires status in 2021 and beyond,” said Sidanke.
Sidanke added that even areas that are traditionally not prone to veld fires are at risk this year. She further highlighted some of the provinces that are at high risk of veld fires.
“The provinces at extreme risk are Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, and Manicaland while Matabeleland provinces, Midlands and Masvingo are this time at high risk to veld fires, up from the traditionally low to medium risk,” she added.
Meanwhile, Sidanke said that EMA has already implemented vast veld fire prevention measures and conducted the fire management awareness blitz across the country.
“The blitz has covered areas such as Chikomba, Wedza and Mudzi in Mashonaland East, Makonde, Hurungwe, Zvimba and Chegutu in Mashonaland West, as well as hot spots in Binga and Hwange in Matabeleland North, Makoni and Nyanga in Manicaland, Mangwe, Bulilima, Insiza and part of Matobo in Matabeleland South; and Bindura, Shamva, Mbire and Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central.
“Activities in the blitz include community talk shows, formation of fire committees and firefighting teams, training on fire prevention and fire fighting, demos on fireguard construction and biomass reduction, drawing up local fire management plans; and issuing of fire prevention orders to remind landowners, users and tenants including communities to put in place fire guards before the onset of the dry season.”.
EMA has also called for collective efforts towards fire management and challenged traditional leaders and local authorities to ensure zero tolerance to veld fires in their areas of jurisdiction.
“The Agency is calling upon all stakeholders to join hands in the veld fire awareness drive and ensure veld fires are prevented. Protect our valuable environment, lives, property and food security. The Agency will not hesitate to prosecute anyone found violating the law thereafter, and is also calling upon traditional leaders and local authorities to use powers vested in them to ensure a zero-tolerance to veld fires in their areas of jurisdiction,” said Sidanke.
In 2020 only 806457,8 hectares were lost to veld fires translating to a 30,38% positive decrease from the 2019 season. Statutorily, the veld fire season in Zimbabwe stretches from 31 July to 31 October each year. The 2021 veld fire season theme is “Veld fires and food security: Protect the harvest.”