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Please Stop The Veldfire Madness!

By Stephen Ephraem in Chimanimani


Chipinge and Chimanimani districts are losing thousands of hectares of forests to veldfires. I travel from Chipinge to Chimanimani regularly whenever duty calls. What I witnessed from October 16 to 22 this year is a real disaster.

There was fire after fire in the timber plantations between Silver Stream and Runhowani in Chimanimani. It was hard to believe that after the devastating Tropical Cyclone Idai which hit the region in March 2019, there are still some people who have the guts to light a match stick to ravage a forest.

It is on record that Tropical Cyclone Idai killed more than 250 people in Zimbabwe and left thousands others injured. The natural phenomenon also destroyed people’s livelihoods. No one doubts that Idai came as an effect of climate change. Destruction of the environment causes climate change.

Idai wasn’t a joke but a catastrophe that set a record of the century. To those who lost a relative to Cyclone Idai or have missing relatives or friends, climate change is an enemy. They wish climate change could be mitigated for good.

There are varied theories on the Chimanimani forest fires. Some claim that the fires were started accidentally. Others say that the issue of land disputes is at play. They claim that some who lost out land allocation are “revenging” their losses by setting the forests on fire.

Whatever might be the reason, forest fires must stop at all cost.

Our memories are still fresh with the ordeal of Tropical Cyclone Idai. And contributing to acts which promote climate change is real madness.

A few years ago, we saw Chimanimani losing more than 1 000 ha and Chipinge more than 500 ha of commercial forests in what people termed as “revenge for labour disputes.”

If people take the arsonists as heroes, then something is amiss with us. Considering arson as media for dialogue between grumbling workers and management or land disputes is a weakness. There are better avenues of seeking dialogue.

Can all that choking smoke substitute dialogue? Moreover, can it add any improvement on the grieving party’s lives? Do we understand how it negatively impacts the Zimbabwean economy?

One forestry expert ushered this advice: “Forests are a strategic resource. Timber plantations are only found in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. What happens in Manicaland with regards to timber will affect the whole of the country.

“For one to build a house say in Binga or Lupane, the timber has to be acquired from Manicaland. The destruction or poor management of forests is a major blow to the economy of Zimbabwe.”

The main reason why people must protect forests is that our lives and that of other species depend on the forests. Setting a forest on fire is like signing own death warranty. How can one get satisfaction in destroying the source of our beloved oxygen?

This madness must stop if we really care about our future!