BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
MATABELELAND North province has recorded a 41% decrease in fire incidents with 213 405 hectares destroyed in 2018 compared to 367 336 hectares in the previous year.
In a speech read on his behalf during the launch and commemoration of the national fire week at Umguza district on Friday, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo attributed the decrease in fire incidents to joint awareness campaigns and prosecution carried out by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), the Forestry Commission, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, as well as local authorities.
“It is disheartening to note that statistics reveal that the province has maintained a second position nationally (as an area with high fire incidents) for the past four years in terms of hectarage burnt,” Moyo said.
“However, I am reliably informed there was a significant reduction in area burnt in 2018 where a total of 213 405,16 hectares were lost compared to 367 336 hectares in the previous year, signalling a 41% decrease,” he said.
Furthermore, Moyo said the province did not record any fire-related deaths in 2018 as opposed to two lives lost in 2017.
“This particular district (Umguza) had a significant decline in area burnt where 34 707 hectares were lost in 2017 compared to 20 213 hectares in 2018. It is unfortunate that ward 10, where we are gathered today ranks among the top fire prone wards within the province,” he said.
“In the past three consecutive years, ward 10 has been at the top. Observations show that bee smoking and poaching from Umguza forest are the major drivers.”
Moyo urged fire prone districts in Zimbabwe to consider undertaking hay bailing projects to generate income as well as a way of mitigating climate change effects.
“I am also satisfied to announce that communities can partner Agritex, EMA and Forestry Commission in hay bailing projects. Matabeleland North is hailed for livestock and wildlife production. Hay bailing, as a project if implemented to full capacity, has multifaceted benefits,” he said.
“The implementers will get animal hay to supplement feed for their stock during drier periods of the season. The removal of grass for hay also protects the environment as it reduces the amount of biomass that could easily be consumed by wildfires,” he said.
Moyo said in 2018 communities in Bubi, Lupane and Umguza engaged in hay bailing projects and a total of 2 445 bales with a total value of $3 667,50 were harvested.
“I am challenging all our fire prone districts namely Binga, Bubi, Hwange, Lupane and Umguza to seriously consider undertaking hay bailing projects as income generating projects which would also benefit our environment and reduce the so much felt climate change effects,” he said.