Villagers in veld fire-prone Muzarabani have set up committees to fight fires which have become a big threat to wildlife and the environment, destroying hundreds of hectares of vegetation annually.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
As the fire season approaches, the villagers with the assistance of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) have started various projects that include creation of fireguards, hay balling, mulching grass harvesting and thatch grass harvesting.
During a tour of the area last week, villagers said they had come up with different initiatives to control the outbreak of veld fires to make sure that the fires were mitigated.
The villagers gathered at Nyandoro Primary School which apparently was gutted by veld fire a few years ago leaving pupils to learn in unconducive conditions.
Speaking at the school on Friday, the councillor for Batambudzi Ward 12, Crebas Chirapa, said villagers were now benefiting from preserving the environment through income-generating projects.
“These hay bales can feed our livestock when pastures dry up as well as sell to others, the mulching grass we can use in our seed beds, while we can sell thatch grass to others as well as thatch our houses,” Chirapa said.
“By cutting this grass, we actually make sure we slow down the fires in case there is a veld fire. Fires cause a lot of harm as we lose pastures for our livestock and trees are burnt down. As you can see, we are fast running out of trees and human lives are also put at risk.”
The villagers, together with mining companies, were also on a drive to replenish forests through planting indigenous and exotic trees to provide a carbon sink to curb global warming.
The villagers have set up teams of five firefighters per village that will be responsible for tackling blazes and mobilising labour as well as environmental monitors that work hand in hand with EMA to ensure the environment is kept intact.
With support from mining companies like Freda Rebecca Gold Mine in Bindura and Shamva Gold Mine that provided disused rubber materials used to make fire beaters, the villagers have done immensely well to reduce the number of veld fires in the area.
According to the statistics provided by EMA, the province recorded 2 780 fires in 2014 down from a staggering 7 409 in 2009.
The 2014 figure is, however, higher than that of 2013 as well as 2012 where they recorded less than 2 000 per year.
EMA Mashonaland Central provincial manager Robert Rwafa said villagers had been engaged to provide solutions to their own problems instead of having solutions dictated to them.
“We want them to prescribe their own solutions. That way, it does not become an EMA programme, but their programme, for instance, the activities that have an economic benefit to them like hay baling,” Rwafa said.
Some villagers also urged EMA to venture into bee-keeping programmes to lure youths into the anti-fire projects.
The drive by EMA will go a long way in conscientising people in rural areas about sustainable development goals whose thrust is in best practices in preserving the environment.