Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Farmers count losses as seven-day veld fire ravages Insiza

Farmers count losses as seven-day veld fire ravages Insiza

Chronicle 21 September 2017


Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
A VELD fire started by gold panners has been burning for seven days in Insiza, leaving farmers counting their losses.

Farmers said they were quickly running out of grazing land as the fires have destroyed pastures.

Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Matabeleland South Provincial Environmental Manager Mrs Thembisiwe Ndlovu advised members of the public to desist from using fires to clear land especially when it is windy.

“We have encountered a serious  fire incident in Insiza over the past few days. The fire has been going on and off for the past seven days. Suspected gold panners are starting these fires as they would be using metal sensors to detect gold,” said Mrs Ndlovu.

She said they have received 23 reports of serious fire incidents in the province and eight of them were in Insiza District.

“Offenders can be prosecuted and can be fined between $5 and $5 000 depending on the level of the offence,” she said.

She urged people to preserve life and the environment.

“Many have lost property, livestock and some have perished due to uncontrollable veld fires,” she said.

Mrs Ndlovu advised farmers to construct fire guards and firebreaks to help reduce the spread of fires from one farm to another.

A farm manager at Insiza Irrigation Centre, Mr Earnest Mhlanga said his livestock was at risk of starvation after a fire that started in a neighbouring farm spread to his property.

“When illegal gold panners start fires to clear land, they usually fail to control the fires and they end up spreading to communal areas. They just do not care because they are not from our area,” said Mr Mhlanga.

“I can’t afford to rely on buying stock feed only for my cattle because it is quite expensive. It is better when stock feed is just for complementary feeding. Now all pastures are just black with soot.”

He said he was eagerly awaiting the rainy season as he felt it was the only solution to his problems.

A farmer Mr Ezekiel Dube said he had lost grain in his barn after a veld fire spread to his farm on Monday afternoon.

“Now I am just hoping to recover from this loss when I sell my winter wheat crop which is under the Command Agriculture project. I lost about 23 tonnes of maize that I was preparing to sell to the Grain Marketing Board,” said Mr Dube.

Another farmer, Mrs Thembi Mpofu said she and her workers spent Sunday night fighting a fire after it spread from a nearby illegal mine.

“I sustained blisters and burns after spending time trying to fight the fire. I had serious fatigue afterwards because we managed to control it at around 4AM. It was just difficult but we could not just sit and watch,” said Mrs Mpofu.

She hopes Government would deal with illegal gold panners who have now invaded agricultural land.

“I hope that the police and Government would chase away these people because they do not even belong here. Now our cattle have to walk long distances because nearby pastures have been burnt,” she said.



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