Veld Fires Engulf Wattle Plantations In Eastern Highlands

By Kenneth Matimaire

CHIPINGE, December 15, 2015 – One of the country’s giant timber producing company – Wattle Company – lost vast tracks of timber under its three plantations of prime wattle trees estimated to cover 700 hectares owing to a veld fire outbreak in the area, Radio VOP can reveal.
The veld fires are said to have destroyed 70 percent of Wattle’s plantations in the district while 30 percent of indigenous forests also succumbed to the uncontrolled fires.
Wattle Company’s chief executive officer Franky Kufa told Radio VOP that they are still compiling data and accessing the situation.
“We are actually compiling information at industry level and will revert when ready,” Kufa said without divulging much when he responded to e-mailed questions from Radio VOP.
The Chipinge district forestry officer, Clasport Karimanzira confirmed the incident.
“Wattle Company lost vast tracks of land that wiped out its three plantations when a veld fire broke out. 30 percent of the fires affected indigenous trees surrounding the plantations,” said Karimanzira.
He lamented that the perennial veld fire outbreaks continue to undermine the productivity of the Wattle plantations as well as destroying the eco-system that inhabit in the forests.
Karimanzira said government together with environmental partners seeks to establish measures to mitigate the crisis.
“We are setting up a reactionary team. It will comprise of various stakeholders such as EMA (Environmental Management Agency), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), District Administrator, District Civil Protection Unit, so as to avert the continuous burning of trees,” he said.
Karimanzira said they are still to establish the cause of the veld fires.
“It is suspected that the veld fire could have been caused by illegal settlers, arsonists, hunters or members of the Masowe Apostolic sect,” he added.
Karimanzira said it is imperative to raise awareness among the surrounding communities over the need to safeguard their environment and desist from starting fires as the forests are the lifeblood of both humans and wildlife.
It should be noted that Wattle started experiencing threatening veld fire incidences following the controversial land reform exercise, which saw several of its plantations being invaded by illegal settlers.
Though the company voluntarily ceded 3,200 hectares of land to government for the purposes of resettling landless people, it bemoaned that some of its plantations continued to be invaded.
Wattle specializes in charcoal production, also produces eucalyptus pole products, wattle extract and pine-sawn timber.
The plantations are under its three divisions spaced in Chimanimani, Chipinge, Nyanga and Vumba under 45,000 hectares