Veld fires have become one of the most topical environmental issues with terminal effects in Zimbabwe. Over the years, infrastructure and property worth millions of dollars have been lost in inferno. Agricultural produce such as maize, soyabean and wheat have been burnt down by fires thus compromising the nation’s food security and nutrition status. Veld fires continue to destroy human life, since 2009 to date, more than 100 lives have been lost in the scourge.
The dry season is fast approaching where conditions will be conducive for veld fire occurrences. To fight this scourge and the associated impacts, it’s imperative that we work together, each stakeholder playing their part. If we have more players and few spectators then this challenge can be solved. The following are some of the key stakeholders in veld fire management and their roles thereof:
They are empowered under the Traditional Leaders Act to apprehend and prosecute environmental law offenders including those that breach veld fire regulations. 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.
Farms are vulnerable because crop residues act as fuel which is required for the occurrence of veld fires.
Farmers should construct standard fireguards every year which are at least 9meters wide on both sides of the farm boundaries and also internal fireguards which are 4,5meters around plantations and fields in order to protect crops.
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 Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) or EMA offices within 7 days.
Have agreed fire alert systems such as drums, whistles and bells;
Listen to weather personnel on the fire danger index so as to improve their state of preparedness.
Law enforcement agents: The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and EMA
Prosecute veld fire offenders.
Holds awareness meetings with communities on veld fire management,
Establishes fire fighting teams in the local communities
School children should:
Not try to cross over veld fires as this may result in fire related fatalities.
Immediately report fire incidences to adults such as parents or teachers before the fires spread and should not in any way attempt to extinguish the fires in the absence of adults.
Never climb trees in trying to flee from a veld fire as both the tree and the children could be burnt to death.
Smokers, motorists and travellers
Smokers should extinguish their cigarette stubs before throwing them away to avoid veld fires.
v Motorists should ensure that car electrical systems are serviced and mechanical parts such as the exhaust must be tightened to avoid sparks created after rubbing onto the road.
Do not drive through flames or areas where your vision is obscured by smoke from veld fires.
Travellers boarding early morning buses should completely extinguish road side fires used to keep warm while waiting for transport. This can be done using water or moist soil.