Zimbabwe: Ema Adopts Innovative Ways to Reduce Veld Fires

Beitbridge Bureau

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has adopted innovative ways among them the extensive use of digital platforms to achieve its minimum target reduction of 25 percent of land lost to veld fires in this year.

The agency's manager for environment and education Ms Amkela Sidange said yesterday that they had started streamlining most of their awareness programmes to fit into the Covid-19 pandemic prevention protocols.

She said they were rolling out an extensive community outreach programme dubbed the 'Accelerated community fire awareness programme'.

Ms Sidange said they had started raising awareness in hot spots around Mashonaland and Manicaland provinces.

The veld fire season officially starts on the 31st of July and ends around October.

"We have adopted a variety of approaches and strategies to raise public awareness and capacity on veld fire management," said Ms Sidange.

"Some of the strategies include the use of digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram; including use of the website to disseminate information on veld fire prevention.

"In addition, we are also carrying out community meetings, training and demos, talk shows and road shows, among many others.

"As we approach the veld fire season, we are calling on farmers, landowners, and tenants and farming communities to urgently put in place relevant and adequate measures to prevent veld fires".

She said the normal fire preparations have been hampered by the novel Covid-19 pandemic, but innovative ways have been employed to ensure improved fire management strategies are being implemented.

Ms Sidange said all their efforts were in line with the 2021 theme 'Veld fires and food security-Protect the harvest'.

She added that the Agency had also done mass production and distribution of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) Material ranging from posters, brochures, flyers, stickers and fire assessment reports.

"We are also engaging multi-stakeholders in our quest to meet our target and we believe this is one of the big game-changers.

"Another unique approach being used in the programme is the engagement of communities at both farm and village level to ensure everyone is reached out and necessary action taken to prevent veld fires," said Ms Sidange.

She said so far they had issued over 900 Environmental Protection orders (EPOs) to farmers, tenants, landowners and communities, compelling them to put in place adequate fire preventive measures on or before 30 June 2021.

Ms Sidange said they have also held more than 2 800 community meetings and training, and other several community engagements.

They had also implemented various community initiatives including biomass reduction through grass combing and hay baling.

"This has resulted in the harvesting of about 55 810 grass bundles and 81 739 hay bales respectively, and in the process collectively protecting an estimated 2 240 hectares of land from veld fires.

Fireguard construction is also going on well and thrust is to ensure all land properties are adequately protected from veld fires during the dry season," said Ms Sidange.

Veld fire prevention was not a sector responsibility and that every citizen must ensure the country protects its valuable natural capital, built environment, bumper harvest and precious lives.

"Veld fire prevention also remains key in the achievement of the National Development Strategy 1 targets and overall protection of the environment, which is also pivotal in the achievement of Vision 2030," said Ms Sidange.

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