Environmentalists are now afraid to give expert advice on the pros and cons of urban cultivation because the slashing of maize crop in urban areas has become a political hot potato.
Those who spoke to NewsDay said they feared being reprimanded since the contentious issue had been highly politicised.
They said farming in urban areas had become a source of livelihood for many families and needed to be managed carefully, hence commenting comprehensively could land them in trouble.
Recently, politicians have used the the slashing of the maize crop in urban areas to further their agendas and distract people from the genuine environmental issues associated with urban farming.
There were riotous scenes at Town House last Friday when scores of angry Zanu PF supporters stormed the building and assaulted occupants as they looked for the mayor, Muchadeyi Masunda and other councillors, whom they wanted to beat up for allegedly giving the order to slash maize crops around the capital.
“The issue of urban cultivation is a contentious one and is very sensitive,” said an environmentalist who refused to be identified. “It can become highly politicised and yet we the environmentalists have genuine reasons for wanting people to know its effects on the ecosystem.”
Environmental Management Agency education officer for Mashonaland East, Estas Mabwe, was the only environmentalist prepared to speak on the hazards of urban cultivation.
He said it was unfortunate that most rural district councils and urban councils were not doing enough to deal with environmental degradation cases caused by streambank cultivation and deforestation as they focused more on issues of revenue.
Mabwe said while urban cultivation benefited vulnerable groups by providing supplementary food, there was need to educate the people on how to go about it without damaging the environment.
“If urban cultivation is done in a proper way, it can actually help vulnerable households. It needs proper planning and monitoring to avoid environmental degradation,” Mabwe said.