Veld fires have become one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, causing so much destruction to Zimbabwe’s natural resources, property and human life. In the past decade, many lives have been lost as a result of veld fires during the dry season. This environmental issue has also impacted on the economic growth.
Millions of dollars worth of property, infrastructure, crops awaiting harvesting, plantations and pastures are destroyed by veld fires, compromising the nation’s food security and nutrition status. The Fire season in Zimbabwe stretches between 31st July to 31st October of each year. During this period, the likelihood of runaway fires is very high due to the conducive environment which includes the availability of dry flammable material, wind and heat.
The Environmental Management Agency monitors the occurrence of veld fires. In 2018, a total of 1595 fire incidences were recorded destroying 1 190 174,89ha. This translates to 6,2 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2017 when 2705 fire incidences were recorded burning 1 268 534,31 ha of land. 2,23 percent of total land in Zimbabwe was burnt in 2018 compared to 2,3 percent in 2017.
Role of Stakeholders in Veld Fire Management
The Environmental Management Agency strongly believes in stakeholder participation in order to achieve a veld fire free environment.
1. Traditional Leaders
Traditional leaders are the custodians of our natural resources. They play a pivotal role in fire management as empowered by the Traditional Leaders Act to apprehend and prosecute environmental law offenders including those that breach veld fire regulations. They also act as the governing body to the ancient customs and practices of clans, tribes, states, chiefdoms and kingdoms in protecting their resources. Traditional Leaders are encouraged to:
– Spearhead the construction of standard fireguards in their communities.
– Establish fire-fighting teams within the local communities who will lead the rest of the community in extinguishing veld fires.
– Use traditional courts to sanction veld fire offenders and keep a record of all the veld fire occurrences in their areas since they are on the ground and to hold fire awareness meetings and campaigns throughout the fire season.
– Establish a veld fire alert system in every village such as drum beat, bell/gong or whistle.
Farmers are one of the most vulnerable groups to veld fires because crop residues left after harvesting act as fuel in the occurrence of veld fires. Also, as their crops await harvesting, they can act as biomass which can fuel fires and cause them to spread to other areas. In the process, agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation equipment and tractors can be destroyed.
– Farmers should construct standard fireguards before the onset of the Fire season which are 9m wide on either side of the farm boundaries and also internal fireguards which are 4,5m.
– Inspect fireguards regularly to make sure that they are free of any combustible material.
– Ensure that fire-fighting equipment such as;water filled knapsack sprayers and bowsers, fire beaters and sacks are at an accessible point during the fire season.
– Report all fire incidences to the nearest ZRP or EMA offices within 7 days.
– Have fire alert systems such as drums, whistles and bells.
– Take heed to weather reports.
– Abide by the fire danger rating index so as to improve state of preparedness towards fires.
3. Law Enforcement Agents
Such Agents include ZRP and the Judiciary system of the country. These play a pivotal role in promoting sustainable development by enforcing environmental laws and upholding the country’s constitution. Law enforcers should participate in fire management through,
– holding awareness meetings with communities on veld fire management,
– Establishing fire-fighting teams in the local communities and
– Prosecuting offenders whose activities could have resulted in the occurrence of veld fires.
– Ensure that you extinguish cigarette stubs before discarding them to avoid veld fires.
– Ensure that cars are well serviced and loose mechanical parts such as exhaust pipes are tightened to avoid veldt fires emanating from when sparks created get into contact with grass on road servitudes.
– Should not drive through flames or when vision is obscured by smoke from veld fires and avoid lighting up roadside fires during the fire season.
-For more information contact EMA on; [email protected] Follow us on Facebook; Environmental Management Agency and Twitter; @EMAeep or visit our website www.ema.co.zw. Alternatively, call us on: Tel 08677006244 and Toll-free 08080028; or use our WhatsApp platform 0779565707.