The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has stepped up efforts to raise awareness on veld fires among farmers, as they are now busy preparing for the next farming season.
In an interview, Environmental Management Agency provincial spokesperson Mr Simon Musasiwa said the province lost over 100 000 hectares of vegetation to veld fires and such a situation could have been avoided.
“We have so far trained over 300 fire-fighting teams and we are conducting community awareness meetings in all districts across the province,” he said. “We have also capacitated the local environmental committees to work with the traditional leadership and institute by-laws which deter community members from starting unnecessary fire.”
Mr Musasiwa said EMA was working with other departments to raise awareness on the benefits of environmental conservation.
“We have taken a multi-stakeholder approach where EMA, Agritex and the Forestry Commission are working with farmers to enhance their environmental knowledge,” he said. “We believe knowledge is power and it will influence the behaviour of farmers.”
Mr Musasiwa said the most vulnerable districts in the Midlands were Gweru, Kwekwe and Chirumhanzu due to the nature of biomass in the areas.
“These districts often experience fire outbreaks which are uncontrollable due to the high volumes of grass,” he said. “We have tightened monitoring mechanism for the construction of standard fireguards to avoid loss of flora and fauna.”
Mr Musasiwa said community engagement in fire management was proving to be an effective tool in managing fire incidents.
He said Somabula topped the district with the largest tracts of land destroyed by veld fires last year, while Mberengwa and Zvishavane had not reported any veld fires during the past two years.