Amid calls to preserve the natural ecosystem and ensure safety measures against veld fires to avoid the loss of lives and valuables, Firefight Trust (NGO) Director, Willson Chimwedzi, has said there is a need to train farmers in fire management.
“In recent years, agriculture in Zimbabwe has been adversely affected by poor tillage due to economic challenges, and to compound it all, small-scale farmers have lost their livestock due to many diseases including January disease. As a result, many have no draught power to till their land and their only option is fire which is now being used extensively for land clearing hence the many fire incidences.
“According to the latest EMA statistics, Zimbabwe has exceeded its annual burnt area from 1033722ha to the current of 1224227ha. There is a serious lack of training in fire management in the country and a general lack of appropriate equipment. Fire is treated as a nominal issue hence no resources are set aside for this even when Zimbabwe through the National Determined Contributions has set a target of reducing fires to 500000ha annually,” Chimwedzi said.
On 10 October 2022, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) reported that ten people died and five others were treated for smoke inhalation at a farm in Esigodini, Matabeleland South.
In Banket, approximately 49 hectares of the ready-to-harvest wheat field was destroyed in a veld fire incident.
The incident that occurred on Monday at Haighton Farm belonging to the late ZRP’s Snr Assistant Commissioner Bothwell Mugariri. This comes hardly a month after another wheat field was also destroyed in Raffingora.
Zacharia Chitanda, a farm manager at the farm said approximately 49 hectares of wheat that were currently being harvested were destroyed.
“The fire came from some neighbouring farms. The fire actually came from the eastern side of the farm and passed over a river (Maquadzi River) due to speedy winds and destroyed the wheat field. Our farm workers tried to put out the fire but due to strong winds, it was even dangerous to continue,” Chitanda confirmed to this publication.
“We were actually in the process of harvesting the wheat and on the day we were actually waiting for trucks that had delivered some wheat to come back when tragedy struck,” he said.
A police report under number RRB 5322519 was made at Banket police station.
Chitanda said they used a tractor to plough around an area bordering another 60 hectares of wheat to avoid the fire spreading.
Environmental Management Agency officials and Agriculture Extension officials are currently carrying out damage assessment and investigations.
Zvimba District Development Coordinator, Anele Desmond Gumbochuma said the veld fire trend in the district is now worrisome.
“We are very worried by the increasing incidents of veld fires which are destroying vegetation. In this incident, a ready-to-harvest wheat crop was destroyed, in the process threatening the national yield,” he commented.
Gumbochuma said people should desist from the habit of starting unnecessary fires and called for stiffer penalties for culprits behind veld fires.
“We urge people to avoid starting unnecessary fires that they cannot control. We are experiencing windy conditions that make it more dangerous to control veld fires. Those behind veld fires destroying infrastructure and homes should face stiffer penalties,” he said.