The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate has issued a warning to farmers to expedite their harvesting and for communities to set up fire guards and guard against threats of veld fire incidences due to the high fuel load created by the abundant rainfall in the 2016-17 season.
In a statement read by the Permanent Secretary for Environment, Water and Climate, Cde Prince Mupazviriho in Harare today, environment authorities predicted that the fire risk in the season spanning from July to November is generally high to extreme for the greater part of the country.
The ministry stated that a total of 776 fire incidences have been recorded since the beginning of the season on the 31st of July to date and some 435 170 hectares have been destroyed.
The figure translates to 129 percent increase in the area burnt, compared to 222 000 hectares that was destroyed from 691 fire incidences recorded last year.
Cde Mupazviriwo urged farmers to expedite harvesting and removing crops from fields and ensure that homesteads and pastures are protected by fire guards which are at least nine metres wide.
“Veld fires compromise food security by destroying crops, pastures and the productive capacity of soils,” he said.
The ministry through the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) is working with other groups in the communities to prevent and fight veld fires through harvesting the grass which may be used for thatching and for livestock feed.
79 000 hectares destroyed in Mat North
Matabeleland North province has lost 79 000 hectares to veld fires since the beginning of the fire season.
72 000 hectares were lost in Matetsi safari area in Hwange with indications showing that the causes of fire were related to poaching.
6 000 hectares were lost in Umguza largely as a result of mining activities and cigarette stubs, while Lupane lost 1 000 hectares in the forestry area due to poaching.
The other four districts; Binga, Bubi, Nkayi and Tsholotsho have not recorded any fire incidents so far.
EMA Matabeleland North Provincial Manager, Mrs Chipo Mpofu Zuze said one person was killed in Umguza district while property worth thousands of dollars has been lost during the period under review.
“The destruction that happened in Matetsi safari in Hwange really affected people environmentally and commercially in Hwange because that is where people get their livelihood,” she said.
EMA has already intensified fire awareness campaigns in communities and closed the deadline for the clearing of fire guards.
Although the fire season officially ends on the 31st of October, the agency will continue to monitor the incidents until the onset of the rainy season.