The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Veld Fires Wreak Havoc

Several tobacco farmers in the Birimahwe area under Chief Nematombo in Hurungwe might be forced to switch to other cash crops this year after their tobacco nursery beds, barns and huts were destroyed by veld fires. The fire swept through the area last week leaving a trail of destruction. At least 70 tobacco nursery beds belonging to both contract and free farmers in the area are a complete write-off after dry tree branches used to secure the gardens were burnt to ashes.

Mrs Evelyn Machingura, who has been into tobacco farming for a decade now, said her lifeline was shattered.

Her two barns, eight nursery beds, a kitchen hut and a gum plantation were destroyed.

Mrs Machingura, alongside several other farmers, had this season been contracted by British American Tobacco to grow the crop.

"I don't know where to start from. I have to make sure I get money to buy some ready tobacco seedlings when the season starts. I also need to raise cash to replace the barns and my kitchen hut," she said.

Mrs Machingura is also the chairperson of the Birimahwe BAT group of farmers.

Mr Killion Blanket another victim is also seeking assistance from well wishers after losing clothing, several nursery beds, 25 bags of maize and 22 bags of compound and top dressing fertilizers.

Among others who lost their property to the blaze are Mr Tsvangirai Machingura (six nursery beds), 69-year-old Mr Isaac Chirenga (a kitchen hut), Mr Leonard Machingura (12 nursery beds and a hut containing maize, plates and knapsack sprayers), Mr Godfrey Mazulu (11 nursery beds), Mr Shame Nzombe (a kitchen hut and a bedroom), and Mr Benjamin Muchenje (a barn and several nursery beds).

Others are Mr Godknows Machingura (a hut and five nursery beds), Alfonso Madziva (three nursery beds) and Collen Nzombe (a kitchen hut, a barn and several nursery beds).

According to Mr Learnmore Nzombe, another victim who lost seven nursery beds to the inferno, the fire was started after a woman from the same village mistakenly dropped some live ambers while walking back home from collecting the fire from a neighbour.

Mr Nzombe alleges that the woman, whose name could not be disclosed, tried to douse the fire, but failed.

Efforts to get a comment from BAT on the fate of the contracted Birimahwe farmers where fruitless by late yesterday.

Meanwhile, destruction of tobacco nursery beds and life by veld fires have been reported in some parts of Tengwe in Hurungwe East, while in several parts of Hurungwe West and Magunje constituencies, the fires have destroyed several huts and livestock.

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