Stakeholders have called for greater participation of communities in fire-fighting strategies, to reduce the impact that veld fires cause in wildlife areas.
As the country moves to the dry season, cases of veld fires are more likely to increase leading to loss of human life, wild life, grazing pastures as well as property.
Chairperson of the Hwange – Gwayi – Dete Conservancy and Tourism Association, Mr Langton Masunda said in wildlife areas, failure to control veld fires results in the migration of wildlife to safer areas, thereby affecting both photographic safaris and hunting business.
“Any slight mistake that will cause veld fires will result in all the animals leaving the conservancy and moving to places that are safer, because there is no fence between the Gwayi Conservancy and Hwange National Park and equally there is no fence between the Hwange National Park and Botswana Soit, meaning that animals can move away and until the next hunting season it means we are out,” he said.
According to Chief Mabhikwa, there is a need for the authorities to monitor that communities benefit from wildlife since veld fires are sometimes caused by people who are poaching due to starvation.
“The challenge you will have again is that sometimes people go deep into the forests and start fires there then the animals move closer to the villages and that worsens human wildlife conflict as the lives of the people are now at risk,” he added.
Chief Nemauzhe from the Maringire area in Masvingo said veld fires require a unitary approach in dealing with them, adding that they (traditional leaders) must be given full powers to impose harsh sentences on perpetrators..
The traditional leader runs a programme which includes stakeholders from ward level.
The programmes in Chief Nemauzhe’s area involves identifying the source of the fire, the culprit and a fine.
Even with all these traditional systems in place, the chief hopes that there will be room one day to impose more hefty fines on people who start fires.
Veld fires largely occur in areas where the land is being prepared for agricultural purposes and clearing of roads, and in areas where poaching cases are rampant.
Meanwhile, the Midlands Province has set up a fire management committee to educate communities on veld fires and how to reduce them while farmers are being encouraged to set up vigilant groups to alert in the event of an outbreak.
The fire management committee has already hit the ground running and is currently seized with a veld fire awareness campaign programmes for communities and farmers.
The committee has so far trained more than 188 fire fighting teams and held 19 indabas at ward level.
Farmers on the other hand have hay bailed 36 000 bales so that in the event of a fire it is manageable and its intensity is reduced.
Midlands Provincial Forestry Extension Manager, Rodrick Chihwai said the veld fire awareness training programmes have intensified from provincial level, cascading down to ward level so as to reduce the outbreak and impact of destruction.
Agritex Midlands Provincial Officer, Mr Peter Chamisa added that while they require capital to set up fire guards, farmers should form conservation area groups and workers vigilant groups that are always on standby to fight raging bush fires.
Veld fires are rampant in the Midlands Province especially in the grass lands of Somabhula, Chirumhanzu and Gokwe areas where the fires usually leave a trail of destruction on wildlife, livestock, property and the province is left a step closer to desertification.
The fires have also reduced soil fertility in some areas.