HARARE – An average 1 million hectares have been burnt annually between 2010 and 2020 amid indications that almost 90% of Zimbabwe will be at high risk of veld fires this year, a direct result of the good rains in the last season that saw a lot more grass, shrubs and other potential fuels for veld fires grow.
Environment Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said veld fires had become an issue of national concern given their wanton destructive nature. Each year, the country loses over a million hectares of forests and grasslands depriving wildlife and livestock of pastures and leaving the country counting loses of property, crops and life.
“The theme for this year’s national fire week commemorations is “Veld Fires and Food Security- Protect the harvest”, a theme with a focus towards revealing the nexus between veld fire management and sustaining food security.
“The annual average burnt area from 2010 – 2020 was 1 million hectares. An average of 60% of the total burnt area has been under the A1 and A2 resettlement areas.”
He noted that of the 18,000 A2 farmers, only about 400 have 99-year leases, which leases have specific clauses on environmental protection. This creates a possibility of massive information gap on the responsibilities of farmers in their properties.
According to the Environmental Management Agency about 89% of the country was lying in the high to extreme high risk to veld fires this year, compared to a meagre 34% in 2020.
The fire season stretches from July 31 up to October 31 each year, although late rains will extend that into November.
“As we all celebrate the projection of a good national crop yield, we should however, be cognisant of the environmental factors which dominate our landscapes, and it is not yet time to relax. We should therefore all work together to prevent catastrophic losses to our harvest from veld fires.
“Over the past 10 years veld fires have led to over 100 fire related deaths. This is too big a figure to ignore. No life should be lost to veld fires because one life lost is one too many. Life is precious and hence we should thrive as a country to prevent loss of life.”