BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
MASVINGO province is losing 409 hectares of pasture each year to lantana camara, and the invasive tropical plant is also threatening conservancies around Chiredzi, a Malilangwe Trust official has revealed.
Urgent measures need to be put in place to eradicate the shrub, which is slowly chocking forests and likely to negatively impact on the tourism industry.
The aromatic shrub, commonly known as cherry pie (English) or mbarapati (Shona), has stems with numerous curved prickles.
The specie often forms impenetrable thickets that suffocate indigenous plants and aggressively invades disturbed and overgrazed areas, and is difficult to eradicate.
Malilangwe Trust chief executive Mark Saunders revealed this during his presentation of challenges facing the Masvingo tourism industry at a tourism indaba held at Triangle Country Club in Chiredzi last week.
“A recent research carried out in 2015 revealed that lantana camara is slowly encroaching into Chiredzi district from Zaka and so far 409 hectares of grazing land are lost every year due to the shrub,” Saunders said.
“This is one of the problems we are facing, among many other challenges that include illegal wildlife trade and various others which are encountered in the wildlife management industry.
“Here, in Chiredzi, we have the Gonarezhou National Park, which is the second largest after Hwange National Park, Save Conservancy, Malilangwe Conservation
Trust, Chiredzi Conversation Park and Bubye.
“With proper management and re-visitation of certain laws on illegal wildlife trade, Chiredzi can be one of the best tourism destinations in the country”
Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Priscah Mupfumira (pictured), who was a guest at the event, together with some officials from various government departments, promised to deal with some of the challenges raised. Mupfumira, however, urged players in the industry to continuously engage her
office in order for them to chart a way forward.
“My office is open to everyone. Come, let us engage regularly. Together, we will achieve our goals to make Zimbabwe the best tourism destination in the world,” she said.