Veld fires threaten development


EDITOR — ‘POLICE identify 10 farm workers killed while battling a veld fire in Esigodini’, ‘Toddler dies in a veld fire’, ‘Veld fire destroys plantations’, ‘100 hectares of wheat destroyed by veld fire’ — these are some the sad headlines we have woken up to in recent weeks. 

It seems this will be one of our worst fire seasons. It is now commonly agreed that veld fires are a single significant threat to national economic recovery plans as they are destroying not only pastures necessary for the restocking exercise but foreign currency generating plantations and pastures critical to the success of animal husbandry. Veld fires are also taking people’s lives and more are still perishing. 

They say prevention is better than cure, so measures like carrying out fire awareness campaigns must take place throughout the season. We must not tire of educating people on the dangers of veld fires.

 It is time we become responsible as most of these fires are a result of carelessness on our part. And people must be taught the best ways to put out fires in the event of a fire breakout. Also people must be taught how to escape fire situations as many are dying after being trapped. 

Smokers must desist from throwing cigarette butts everywhere but must always make sure that they have put them out when they do. As has always been said, prevention is better than cure. 

Zimbabwe has recorded close to a 90 percent increase in veld fires compared to last year during the same period. The statistics are alarming. With the current fire season set to end on October 31, about 1 517 incidents were recorded from July 31 when the season commenced. 

Veld fires have destroyed agricultural produce, equipment,  household property and plantations as well. 

The current  trends in veld fire incidents  require everyone to take part to prevent them, mobilise local structures to put out the fires and report the culprits to law enforcement agencies.

 The weather is windy, dry and hot, making it easy for veld fire outbreaks, so we all must be careful. Frequent burning has implications on carbon stocks and emissions while wildlife habitat is destroyed, human health and life as well as livelihoods. 

Natural cycles of forests are seriously disrupted when the  frequency of forest fires in particular regions is high, causing disappearance of native species.

 Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and climate  change, increases leading to floods and landslides as well.

 Small animals such as snakes, rabbits, insects and birds are at great risk during veld fires. Not all animals can escape early after detecting  oncoming fires; some are left behind and killed. After all has been said and done, people should always have the necessary equipment, protective clothing and trained personnel to extinguish fires. 

And again I repeat, smokers, makorokoza and those who hunt for small rodents, like mice, should desist from from starting disastrous fires. — Benhilda Chademana, Harare


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