The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Veld Fires Ravage Grazing

ALMOST 70 000 hectares of grazing have been destroyed by veld fires during the past seven months, with the Kavango and Otjozondjupa regions the worst affected.

According to the Monthly Burned Area Report of the Directorate of Forestry, it is especially the central-north and northern regions veld fires have destroyed vast grazing areas.

A total of 21 427 hectares have burned down in the Kavango Region since April this year, with more than 13 000 hectares destroyed in the month of September alone.

Senior forester Paulus Shikongo told The Namibian that since September farmers in communal areas have been starting fires to clear land for planting.

“However in some instances these fires got out of hand assisted by strong winds and then more land is destroyed than was needed for planting,” he said.

In the Otjozondjupa Region veld fires destroyed more than 9 000 hectares in August, while another 5 679 hectares burned down in September. During that same period almost 8 000 hectares were destroyed in the Omaheke Region.

“This could be ascribed to controlled burning by farmers to get rid of dead scrub and allow new grass to grow, which again is good for hunting farms,” said Shikongo.

In the Omusati Region a total of 2 475 hectares were destroyed in June and according to Shikongo incidents of veld fires in some regions increased during the winter months.

“During these cold months the people make fires to warm themself up and if they are left unattended, or a strong wind is blowing, these fires can easily get out of hand.”

The only region where there was a decrease in veld fires over the last ten months was the Caprivi, where 3 284 hectares of grazing were destroyed.

The regions that are less affected by veld fires are Karas (67 hectares), Ohangwena (116 hectares), Hardap (501 hectares), Erongo (616 hectares) and Khomas (747 hectares).

According to Shikongo, other causes of veld fires are lightning during the rainy season and motorists throwing burning cigarette butts out of their cars.

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