Masvingo district has topped the 2020 veld fire report released by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), TellZim can reveal.
The report was released on the belated provincial National Fire Week commemorations which ran under the theme ‘Veld fires and food security- protect the harvest’
Masvingo province, which is in the high risk category, recorded a total of 10 859.23 ha of area burnt during the fire season which stretches from July 31 – October 30 each year.
Masvingo district recorded 6742.19ha of veld fires and was followed by Gutu district which had 3277.97ha.
The province however did not record any loss of life due to veld fires which claimed four lives nationally in the year 2020.
Ema Masvingo provincial manager Milton Muusha said the two districts always interchangeably topped the province’s veld fire records every year due to their geographical locations.
“Masvingo and Gutu usually top the provincial records every year because of their location; it’s wetter in Gutu and Masvingo but gets drier as you go southwards. As a district, Gutu is grassland and because of that there are high chances of veld fires,” said Muusha.
Bikita district took the third position with a total area 608.94ha, while Mwenezi came fourth with a total area of 585.11ha that were destroyed by fire.
Chivi and Zaka districts have not been significantly affected and had a combined total of 245ha burnt.
Muusha said the province had a fire management plan which included fire guard construction, veld fire awareness capacity building and fire management projects.
“We are targeting 380km of fire guards but so far, we have done 76.5km and we want to do 100 veld fire awareness road shows and so far we are at 78.
“We are targeting 56 community awareness meetings and so far we have done 49 and we intend to distribute 1 050 veld fires brochures and we are currently at 650. We have also trained two firefighting teams and we have engaged a number of traditional leaders and farmers,” said Muusha.
He said most veld fires were caused by the use of fire by hunters or poachers and the use of fire during land clearance for agricultural purposes.
Muusha advised that people should engage in fire management projects like bee keeping, road servitude clearance, hay-baling and thatch grass harvesting.
“The above normal rainfall experienced in the province and country at large has resulted in excessive fuel load build-up in most parts of the province thereby increasing the risk of veld fires in the year 2021. We urge the communities to put in place fire suppression measures and have readily functional and well-equipped firefighting teams,” said Muusha.
Titus Gangata, a local farmer who has been running his operations at Campria Farm, said there had never been a fire outbreak at the place as all fire preventive measures were in place.
“When I came here, all the signs were there that the farm had suffered multiple fire outbreaks in the past but there has never been more ever since. I have maintained a fire guard around the farm and we are currently maintaining our road servitudes,” said Gangata
… as famers make a living from harvesting grass
Farmers in Kepura Farm near Roy area of Masvingo district are making a good living through harvesting grass which they use to make a number of products which they sell.
The famers harvest grass for traditional thatching purposes as well as pruning it for commercial thatching.
Munhondowafa village head, Fanuel Munhondowafa of Kepura Farm, said he was earning a good income which has enabled him to send children to school as well as to feed and clothe them by selling the grass.
He said the area had tall grass and which they cut for thatching and only realized that he could make more from other products from the grass.
“All along, I have been cutting grass for use as thatch since I settled here but in 2017, I realized that I could make a living from making other products from the same grass.
“I now cut and prune the grass which I then sell to passersby and other individuals who want to do thatching in town. I then take the grass that is left during pruning and sell it to those who want to do mulching in gardens as well as those who use it for chicken bedding,” said Munhondowafa.
He said he now makes chicken nests from the grass awhile his wife make brooms out of the same grass which they cut in the veld.
Munhondowafa said grass harvesting was a good way of preventing veld fires that often destroy the ecosystems every dry season.
When we cut the grass, we save a lot of other plants and creatures from fire. The areas where the grass is cut small are the least vulnerable to fast-spreading veld fires,” Munhondowafa said.
He said a number of people in the area were also plying the same trade and this unites them as a community in the fight against veld fires.
“A number of people have since joined me in this trade and this unites us as a family and enables the community to do firefighting if there is an outbreak,” said Munhondowafa.
He however said they were facing a number of challenges from other people who were deliberately starting veld fires for their own malicious reasons.
“If I could get Ema-branded bicycle and work suits, I would be able to quickly respond to veld fires even those that happen a long distance away,” he said