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Three people were killed, while over 800 000 hectares were destroyed by fire between July 31 and October 31, 2020 making it the first fire season in a decade that has seen less than one million hectares being lost to veld fires.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) environmental education and publicity manager, Mrs Amkela Sidange, attributed the significant decrease in both area burnt and the number of fires recorded in 2020 to increased efforts in veld management by EMA and its partners and working with communities in fire-prone areas to prevent veld fires.
“This resulted in a total of 1 040 504 3 hectares protected through the construction of a cumulative length of 10 150,4 kilometres fireguards across the country. A total of 92 795 bundles of thatch grass and 174 455 hay bales harvested collectively protected another 14 481 hectares of prime land.
“The coming in of the Pfumvudza/Intwasa farming concept discouraged burning of biomass during land preparation, which in previous fire seasons remained a major cause of a number of veld fires,” she said. Mrs Sidange said 806 457,84 hectares of land were lost to veld fires as at 31 October from a total of 1 178 fires recorded since the commencement of the statutory fire period on 31 July 2020.
“In the same period in 2019, a total of 1 508 veld fires burned 1 158 291,57 hectares. This then translates to a decrease of 30,38 percent on total area burnt and 21, 38 percent on fire incidences recorded during the 2020 fire season,” she said.
Three men, two from Mashonaland East and one from Mashonaland West, died in veld fires in 2020, the same as in the same period last year. EMA supported communities with bee hives as an incentive for encouraging the protection of the veld from fires, and as livelihood options.