Samuel Kadungure and Ray Bande
FIRST Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa has raised a red flag over the wanton deforestation and veld fires that are destroying extensive tracts of forests and grasslands, thereby resulting in the annihilation of flora and fauna, property, livelihoods and human life.
The First Lady, who was recently in Rusape, also presided over the traditional food cook out competition at Chief Makoni’s traditional court.
Amai Mnangagwa decried the massive increase in veld fire incidences, highlighting their negative impact on Manicaland’s agricultural land, forests, commercial timber plantations and communal grazing areas.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) recently revealed that at least 10 000 hectares of land, among them timber and citrus plantations, have so far been destroyed by veld fires in the province.
EMA said Makoni, Chipinge, Chimanimani and Nyanga are at extreme risk of veld fires, the majority of which are attributed to land clearing, fireguard construction and mice hunting.
“The rate at which trees are being cut down is worrisome. Deforestation and veld fires will worsen the negative impact of climate change. This must stop for our own good.
“Along the way I was forced to pull over after being trapped by a veld fire’s thick smoke. The areas I passed through have been turned into semi-deserts, all the indigenous trees such as Musasa and Mutondo have been destroyed.
“People are selling cords of firewood along the highway at the expense of environmental conservation. Under such conditions, climate change will take its toll,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa said climate change affects everyone by threatening food and water security, as well as compromising human health.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity today. It causes extreme temperature fluctuations, which our bodies are not used to. This will result in various types of diseases. Trees must be preserved as they give us life.
“Veld fires reduce bio-diversity through the destruction of flora and fauna, increased erosion and decreased infiltration, which leads to less water for the people and our livestock,” she said.
National tree ambassador, Mr Never Bonde applauded Amai Mnangagwa for adding her voice to the growing calls on the need to protect the environment.
Mr Bonde said indigenous trees are under serious threat in Manicaland.
“We thank the First Lady for addressing the twin evils of deforestation and veld fires in Manicaland.
“The province used to be a hub of indigenous trees, but they are being cut down wantonly.
“We must heed the First Lady’s advice, embrace it and protect our environment. We must watch over our environment as its well-being feeds into our own well-being,” said Mr Bonde.
Chief Makoni echoed the same sentiments.
He vowed to conduct a fire management campaign across the district and impose deterrent penalties on those caught on the wrong side of the law.
“Veld fires are a cancer we have to deal with. They are rampant in resettlement areas and the First Lady has given us a challenge to protect the environment.
“Going forward, I will not hesitate to deal with those who cut down trees and cause veld fires because I have to protect my heritage. I should not wait until my area turns into a desert,” said Chief Makoni.
Meanwhile, Amai Mnangagwa was in Chipinge on Sunday where she implored on people to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
“We continue to encourage people to get vaccinated so that our country attains herd immunity. Those with chronic illnesses should continue adhering to their medication even after getting vaccinated. Vaccination mitigates against Covid-19 and not any other illness,” said Amai Mnangagwa, who is also the National Health Ambassador.
The First Lady further encouraged people to adhere to Covid-19 preventive measures as the fight against the pandemic continues.
Amai Mnangagwa also bemoaned youth delinquency, saying drug abuse and other forms of mischief are foreign to the Zimbabwean way of life.
“It is unfortunate that our youths are adopting Western cultures. This has resulted in different forms of delinquency that include drug abuse and unwanted pregnancies.
“Our girls are now competing with their fathers in drinking alcohol and the end result is unwanted pregnancies. This should be addressed. Let us revert to our old way of doing things. Our children need our guidance,” added Amai Mnangagwa.