Manicaland: Veld fires destroy 10 000 ha timber in six months

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By Alois Vinga

VELD fires have reportedly destroyed 10 000 hectares of timber in a space of six months, starting July 2018 up to date.

This was revealed in parliament by Mutare West legislator Teedzai Muchimwe recently.

“…As from July 2018 to date, 10 000 hectares of timber have been destroyed,” he said.

“Erin forests, Nyanga timbers and Chimanimani plantations were set ablaze.

“Also Leopard Rock plantations are randomly cut off. According to a veld source statistics, between the period of 2017 to 2018, 20 million loss in timber was recorded, meaning that 12 percent of plant population was destroyed.”

Muchimwe said from 1998 to date, 12 million plants have been reduced by half, to 6,5 million.

The destruction will come at a cost to the country whose gum tree, the common source of timber, takes at least 10 years to mature.

Said Muchimwe, “Zimbabwe is not supposed to import timber. Instead, it has to export it to resuscitate our economy…timber is very important and if it is destroyed, we lose a lot of foreign currency in this country.”

Chikanga-Dangamvura legislator, Joyce Makonya blamed the developments on the Environmental Management Agency’s failure to address problems associated with veld fires in the country.

“EMA is a toothless dog when it comes to the burning of forests, even the police. If there were stiff penalties for people who causes veld fires, I do not think people would continue burning forests,” she said.

On its part, EMA said through its spokesperson, Joyce Chapungu that it had managed to reduce incidences of fire in Manicaland.

“There was actually a 15.3 percent decrease in veld fire occurrences in Manicaland as compared to 2017. This was a result of the various strategies employed by EMA and stakeholders to reduce veld fires,” she said.

She added that veld fire management is not wholly centred on EMA as it also includes stakeholders like the Forestry Commission, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Judiciary.

The Timber Producers Federation recently announced that timber exports are expected to grow by 19 percent injecting $25 million in revenue this year.

At its peak in 2000, Zimbabwe’s forestry industry generated around $137 million a year for the country but has now been performing below capacity due to a number of factors.