By Shingirai Vambe
The just ended year 2022 closed with no sign of mushroom throughout most provinces in Zimbabwe despite receiving adequate rains which is somewhat quite odd. Cultural people may be driven to think this farming season is doomed.
Mushrooms are usually picked in the mountains and deep forests every year soon after the first rains. With names, mostly Shona forest mushroom types include Chihumbiru, Nhedzi, Tsvuke-tsvuke, Huvhe, Nzeve and Matindindindi (this type is dried first). Every year many families rely on the relish even though nobody sows and prepares the land on which they thrive on. Good climatic conditions and moderate rainfall have been attributed to mushroom growth.
They are rated among the best vegetables both in rural and urban settings and many families profit from selling to their communities. Originally a fungi, mushrooms are a great source of nutrients ideal for the human body especially the elderly whom with age become susceptible to a lot of ailments. However, not all mushroom types are safe for consumption as some may grow on soil or under trees which make them poisonous. Almost every year the country records deaths from eating poisonous mushrooms. Horticultural farmers leverage on oyster farming, another type of mushrooms to fill the void that comes when mushrooms get finished only to be seen the next farming season .
Some have suggested that this farming season’s lack of mushrooms may be another effect of climate and veld fires which ravaged many parts of the country as a result of dryness and heavy winds which were experienced between July and October. Over 400 hectares of land, thousands of livestock, millions of dollars’ worth of property and lives were lost during the period in 2022. Many were left counting their loses whilst the ecosystem also bore a huge brunt. Many animals evacuated to safer places for survival.
Veld fires destroyed the most fertile soils, grass and seeds leaving a trail of destruction to once established natural ecosystems. Also, some decry the extension of urban settlements into once nature preserve areas and forests as rural-urban migration keeps escalating at an alarming rate.
Director in the ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Climate Change department, Washington Zhakata, told the Post On Sunday Newspaper that the winds in October 2022 have been excessive.
“These winds are expected during the month of August but due to climate change and the noticeable shifts in the seasons and the unpredictability of the inter-annual variability in terms of climate change and climate, 2022 has seen the late onset of winds in the month of August and the excessive dryness of the grass exacerbated the spread of veld fires across the country,” Zhakata said.
He added that there is dire need to take extra precaution this year to ensure compliance to the law and regulations, particularly fire guards to avoid a recurrence of last year’s destruction.
Quality seeds from trees, grass and fungi from mushrooms which usually lie idle, awaiting their season were destroyed and waters sources were left exposed, leading to dryness and ultimately death of organisms which survive through this cycle.
The reality of climate change is slowly being felt, already some indigenous fruits are fast becoming scarce due to deforestation and human induced activities that affect biodiversity. Most of last year’s veld fires were man-made either during land preparations for the farming season or whilst hunting wild animals. In Buhera Ward 1, 7 villages were destroyed in one night whilst 10 lives were lost in Matebeleland as a result of veld fires.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) was kept on their toes during that period and continues to raise awareness on managing and avoiding veld fires.
Mushrooms grow well under thick shades of trees in colder temperatures but may also thrive when temperatures hover around 40 to 90 degrees and where there is moisture since they don’t have skin or decomposing organic matter to preserve sufficient moisture.
Going forward, if veld firestarters and deforestation culprits are not brought to book this scrumptious relish might as well go extinct and the next generations will only remain to tell the tale.