The National Fire Week was launched at Gwebi Agricultural College yesterday with Government calling on A1 and A2 farmers to comply with the law of constructing fireguards to protect lives, property and food from veld fires.
Government ministries and departments were urged to mainstream veld fire issues into all their programmes while those responsible for policing the legislation were implored to continue raising awareness countrywide and enforcing the law.
This year's function was hosted by the Environmental Management Agency held under the theme: "Veld Fires and Food Security- Protect the Harvest".
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said as the country celebrated the projection of a good national crop yield, it was important to be cognisant of the environmental factors which dominated landscapes and it was not time to relax.
He said the theme revealed the nexus between veld fire management and sustaining food security.
"The country's agricultural yield projection for the 2020/21 season indicates a bumper harvest, one of its kind in 37 years, which we should all celebrate and judiciously protect.
"We should therefore all work together to prevent catastrophic losses to our harvest from veld fires," he said
"The annual average burnt area from 2010-2020 was one million hectares. An average of 60 percent of the total burnt area has been under the A1 and A2 resettlement areas. Ladies and gentlemen, of the 18,000 A2 farmers, only about 400 have 99 year leases, which leases have specific clauses on environmental protection. This creates a possibility of massive information gap on the responsibilities of farmers in their properties.
"It is in this regard that we have already begun a comprehensive awareness programme with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement through their Agritex extension services. Every farmer is expected to construct their fireguard in compliance with the laws of our country," he said.
Minister Ndlovu applauded the private sector and development partners including Firefight, Carbon Green and UNDP through the GEF 6 project for remaining resolute in the fight against veld fires, who, among others include.
Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Mary Mliswa-Chikoka expressed concern that some of their districts such as Hurungwe, Zvimba and Makonde had been affected by uncontrolled veld fires destroying large tracts of land.
She said the recurrence of veld fires threatened the agricultural activities from the province which produces nearly half of the country's yield output adding the fight against veld fires was supposed to be won at all cost.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Douglas Karoro said veld fires were a major threat to food security particularly the bumper harvest that is expected.
"Imagine all the hard work that our farmers have put in place being destroyed in a matter of a few minutes. Our food security will suffer. Our economy will be adversely affected. Government will revert to food imports which gobble a large chunk of our foreign currency.
"Let's all do all what we can to prevent and avoid veld fires," he said.
National Fire Week Launch is meant to raise awareness amongst communities on the need to prevent veld fires by undertaking pre- fire suppression measures such as fireguard construction, biomass reduction and early controlled burning.
Every year, the second week of May is set aside for education and awareness raising on the dangers associated with veld fires and therein strategies for their prevention.