People in Vumba near Mutare have said the area's tourism potential and timber business are facing an uncertain future in the wake of rampant veld fires blamed on suspected poachers trying to trap game.
A timber producer and sawmill owner in the area, Mr Munyaradzi Mushakavanhu, told The Herald that veld fires were their biggest challenge for timber producers, while the iconic Vumba mountains were at risk of losing their picturesque features if the fires were not stopped.
"Timber business is at a standstill these days, as veld fires caused by poachers hunting wild animals are scorching our plantations, razing to the ground even the just planted small trees," he said. "Most timber trees like gums and pines need up to 18 years to reach maturity, but veld fires are cutting that cycle short."
Mr Mushakavanhu said in the last planting season he planted about 400 trees, but only a few of those remained due to the fires.
"We are afraid the heritage of timber plantations, which Vumba used to boast of, will be lost despite our efforts to maintain it," he said.
"As foresters we have constructed fireguards around the plantations to stop the fires from spreading but the poachers are now starting the fires from within and allow them to spread towards the grasslands where the animals they are targeting will be.
"They use fire to drive animals to thick forests where they can kill them under the cover of trees. This has also disrupted many grassland areas in Vumba."
Crop farmers have also not been spared from the fire problem.
Farmer and councillor of the area Mr Winmo Mushakavanhu said veld fires were giving them sleepless nights.
"Veld fires are giving us sleepless nights as we have to continually check on the safety of our ripening crop day and night despite erecting fireguards," he said.
"The rampaging fires have come at a time when Vumba was eyeing to make an impact in farming through Government's Command Agriculture programmes. Before this Vumba was only known for its resorts and wildlife."
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has since deployed rangers in the area to deal with poachers.
Cllr Mushakavanhu confirmed working together with the rangers to reduce poaching activities in the area.
Vumba is known for its attractive sites, holiday resorts that include the famous Leopard Rock Hotel, Eden Lodge, White Horse Inn, Vumba Heights, viewing sites and indigenous wild animals.
Fauna that inhabit the area include giraffes, elands, wild boars, monkeys and exotic birds while flora on the beautiful green mountains and flowery-garden sites contribute to the beauty of the area.