Villagers Equipped To Fight Veldt Fires

By Vusumuzi Mkhwananzi

GWANDA-Fire has been used in the African continent for centuries and has continued to shape savannah ecosystems.Controlled fires play a pivotal role in pests and disease control as well as reducing biomass that can otherwise be burnt by uncontrolled fires during the fire season. Over the years the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate has put in place various strategies to combat the problems of uncontrolled fires.

In 2006 a National Fire Strategy and Implementation Plan was launched. In 2007 the Government gazetted the Environment Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection regulations, Statutory 7 of 2007 to reduce the fire occurrences. The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) continues to work with various stakeholders in fire management related issues. 

With sixty people, including school children having been killed in Zimabwe by veld fires since 2009 , EMA says it continues to support many fire guard projects in a bid to curb the plight of uncontrolled fires. 

EMA’s Mataeleleland South provincial manager Sithembisiwe Ndlovu says  wildlife, properties and vegetation has also been lost in veldt fires.

Speaking at the district launch of the fire season in Ekuthuleni village in Umzingwane district, Ndlovu said this year’s theme  “Fire prevention-my responsiblity” seeks to conscientise communities on fire preparedness.

“It is everyone responsibility to guard against veldt fires and to put off fires once they start.The major causes of fire have been gold panners who would want to clear the land before using their detectors,” said Ndlovu.

“The districts that lost high hactorage last year were Insiza, Mangwe, Matobo and Umzingwane respectively. The other districts recorded low hactorage lost in the same period. The total hactorage lost in the year under review is 96 368.45ha.”

Insiza, Matobo, Mangwe and Umzingwane experienced the highest hactorage lost in the last five years due to veldt fires.Bulilima, Gwanda as well as Beitbridge recorded the least hactorage lost under the same period. The total hactorage lost in the five-year period is 254 044ha. 

Chief Gwebu of Umzingwane urged the responsible authorities to ct decisively on those causing veld fires.

“Our heritage sites are also under threat because of these veld fires, a few years back school children died after being trapped in a raging veldt fire nd this cannot be allowed to continue,” said the Chief.

Abneri Ndlovu the leader of the fire fighting team in Ekuthuleni village said they are indebted to EMA for equipping them with skills to put out fires.

“We are now ready to put out fires and this has been done through the help of EMA officials.We have also erected fire gaurds and we are hopeful that this year we will not have any problems,’ said Ndlovu.

Under the country’s laws every individual aged between 16-65 years and well bodied has an oblgaton to help in putting out veldt fires and it is an offence not to participate in putting out fires.

Those who start fires can e fined upto $5000 if found guilty.