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, 104 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, crops and pastures were destroyed by veld fires, compromising the nation’s food security and nutrition status.
The Environmental Management Agency has been monitoring veld fires since the 31st of July 2018, to date. During the period between the 31st of July and the 31st of October each year, the likelihood of runaway fires is very high due to the conducive environment which includes the availability of dry flammable material, wind and heat.
Since the 31st of July 2018, a total of 1326 fire incidences destroying 860 204.04ha have been recorded. This translates to 4.6 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2017 when 1 855 fire incidences were recorded burning 901 313.91 ha of land. Nationally 2.23 percent has been burnt since the onset of the fire season as compared to 2.33 percent last year.
Stakeholder participation in Veld Fire Management
The Environmental Management Agency strongly believes in stakeholder participation in order to achieve a veld fire free environment.
- Traditional Leaders
They play a pivotal role in fire management as they are empowered under 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.
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 act as fuel which is required for 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 every year which are 9m wide on either side of the farm boundaries and also internal fireguards which are 4,5m around plantations and fields in order to protect crops.
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 your state of preparedness.
- Law Enforcers
The ZRP is playing a pivotal role in promoting sustainable development by enforcing environmental laws and upholding the country’s constitution. The ZRP:
Holds awareness meetings with communities on veld fire management,
Establishes fire fighting teams in the local communities and
Prosecutes offenders whose activities result in the occurrence of veld fires.
Ensure that you extinguish your cigarrete stubs before throwing them away to avoid veld fires.
Ensure that car electrical systems are serviced and loose mechanical parts such as the exhaust are tightened to avoid veldt fires emanating from sparks so created after getting in contact with the grass on the road servitude as you drive.
Never drive through flames or when the vision is obscured by smoke from veld fires.