THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has bemoaned the increase in loss of lives and destruction of infrastructure and property by veld fires this year saying this negatively affected the growth of the economy.
Speaking at a Veld Fire Management Strategies gathering at Woodlands Farm in Matetsi Ward 1 in Hwange district, EMA education officer Mildred Matunga said veld fires affected economic growth by destroying property, infrastructure and human lives.
“According to the 2014 fire statistics 1,6 million hectares were destroyed by veld fires nationwide compared to 1 179 274ha in 2013. Four people perished due to uncontrolled fires in 2013 compared to 12 in 2014.
“Matabeleland North Province lost 125 952,02ha in the 2013 fire season compared to 356 430ha in 2014,” Matunga said.
She said Hwange district was chosen as one of the priority areas in constructing fire guards and educating people about veld fires as it was the most fire prone district in the province.
“Hwange district continues to be the most prone district in the province from 2011 to date with 144 263ha destroyed by fires in the 2014.
“This is due to poaching, land clearing, charcoal making activities, bee smoking and careless throwing of lit cigarette stubs.
“However, there has been a general reduction in veld fire incidences, especially in Matetsi Ward 1, with only two incidences this year due to a positive response by the community during veld fire awareness programmes and clearing of the land,” she said.
Ward 1 councilor Ellias Muzamba thanked EMA and villagers for working together in curbing veld fires this year.
“The community benefits from hunting quotas and proceeds are kept in the custody of the Matetsi Environment Subcommittee.
“The funds are then used for the development of vital infrastructure, such as schools, hunting safari camps and clinics, hence there is an intrinsic motivation for the community to preserve natural resources and protect their area from veld fires,” Muzamba said.
“Wild animals used to cross to Botswana due to veld fires and most of them died trying to escape, but with the help of EMA, our hunting quota yielded good results and we have managed to buy a new tractor with the money, for clearing land in constructing fireguards.
“Moreover, our children did not have schools, but we have built four primary and one secondary school and we are planning to extend our hunting camps,” he said.
Ward 1 has 18 farms comprising 26 villages and 1 096 homesteads.