Veld fires have killed 122 people across Zimbabwe since 2005, with those accused of randomly starting fires facing the full wrath of the law, Vice President Kembo Mohadi has said.
In a speech read on his behalf by Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka at the 2019 National Fire Launch at Chitindiva Primary School in Hurungwe District yesterday, VP Mohadi expressed Government's concern over the veld fires, which also claim one million hectares a year.
Government has declared the period between July 31 to October 31 of each year as the fire season, where people are not allowed to start unguarded fires that can cause extensive damage to the environment.
"Veld fires have become an issue of national concern given their destructive nature," said VP Mohadi.
"Each year, the country loses over a million hectares of forests and grasslands, depriving wildlife and livestock of potential grazing land and leaving the country counting numerous loses of property and lives.
"In addition, plantations and orchards of great economic value are destroyed together with other public infrastructure and private belongings. Areas of interest which anchor our tourism industry are also affected by the same fires."
Five people died in veld fires last year.
"Fire has surely become more of an enemy than a friend and as such, it is one of the priority areas of focus in our economic blueprint, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP)," said VP Mohadi.
He said Government's decision to launch the fire week in Hurungwe was advised by statistics from previous fire seasons, showing the district as leading in veld fire outbreaks and hectares of land burnt every year.
"This is indeed worrisome and I challenge the local leadership to reverse this trend this season," said VP Mohadi.
"Statistics indicate we have already lost a lot of livestock due to tick-borne and other related diseases since January 2019 in this very province, now that we are faced with yet another serious challenge in the form of veld fires, which by the way wipe out grazing pastures for our livestock, we definitely need to militate against any veld fire outbreak."
The theme for veld fires management this year is "Protect the environment, life and property -- prevent veld fires".
VP Mohadi urged stakeholders in the livestock sector to harvest hay in high veld areas for distribution in the low velds in support of Government's thrust of restocking the national herd. He said veld fires threatened Government's endeavour to create a self-sufficient and food surplus economy premised on the fact that a protected environment was good for both crop and livestock production.
"If we don't put enough effort to prevent veld fires, we risk losing the hard-earned crop yields and animal forage, derailing all our efforts of reviving our national economic status to the upper-middle class we envisage in 2030," he said.
The launch was attended by Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Secretary Mr Munashe Munodawafa, Environment Management Agency director Mr Aaron Chigona, senior Government officials, traditional leaders and scores of villagers.