The veld fire menace
Birds live by and large on grain of grass in the wild.
Destruction of that grass has a negative effect on the ecological system.
For example, rodents and reptiles such as rats and snakes tend to seek safety and food in houses, factories and motor vehicles whenever the veld is burnt and cannot give them natural shelter and food.
In those circumstances, they can spread dangerous diseases, with snakes being a cause of many deaths in the rural areas of Zimbabwe every year.
The destruction of trees creates an environment in which carbon dioxide, a dangerous gas, increases, causing a higher incidence of diseases of the upper respiratory tract, and dermatological aliments. Land is the source of life for the entire human race as it is on it that it lives, and from it that it survives.
Fire is, in effect, a destructive element that must be used with much care. It reduces an agriculturally productive region into a barren desert, and a formerly wet locality into an arid area.
It destroys the earth’s top cover, making it easy for the wind to blow it away, and for water to wash and carry the soil off. This means, in fact, that veld fires facilitate and accelerate soil erosion.
That is one of the negative results of veld fires, another being the danger it poses to human life and to property such as people’s homes, as was the case in Medeira, Portugal, two weeks ago.
Many soil scientists and physical geographers believe that veld fires contribute to the world’s desertification phenomenon.
They base their conclusions on some Sahara Desert archaeological excavations that found remains of wood that was burnt some millions of years ago, proof that before turning into the world’s largest desert, the Sahara was a forest.
Soil conservationists tell us that veld fires contribute to the degeneration of the affected land.
It is because of that they strongly criticise the “chitemene” agricultural system of the Bembas of Zambia.
That system involves slashing and burning of areas to be tilled.
An important fact we must all remember about land is that it is a natural gift, God-given, if you like, to us all that we must use with much care so that we leave it to posterity in as usable a condition as we found it.
Veld fires cause virgin land to age overnight, resulting in very poor pastoral and crop agricultural yields.
Some minerals such as mica and zinc get adversely affected by veld fires, especially if they repeatedly occur where the minerals are found.
One soil science theory says that veld fires cause greater damage to soils with a high phosphorous component than those with less.
The reason may be that phosphorous is very flammable, so that where it occurs veld fires will be stronger and will last longer.
However, wherever they occur, veld fires are destructive, and those responsible for their occurrence must be arrested. Presently the Zimbabwe Republic Police does not appear or sound to consider veld fires a serious crime.
If the police did, their personnel would investigate the causes and origins of every veld fire.
They do not. Could it not help if the ministry responsible for the protection of Zimbabwe’s environment closely liaise with the law enforcement agencies with the aim of establishing a section that deals with this national menace?
That could most likely reduce the incidence of veld fires, and save the tress that the Minister (Cde Oppah Machinguri) is wisely asking people to plant yearly.
To Zimbabweans it is necessary to say that the duty to protect our motherland or fatherland is on our shoulders.
Burning it is actually destroying it. Every parent, teacher, MP, councillor, chief, headman, and village head should educate those he or she leads about the importance of preserving our land.
It is significant that various nations refer to their respective countries as either their fatherland or motherland.
Land is indeed the most important of all parents because it is a national as compared to a family parent.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. email@example.com