No to stream bank cul­ti­va­tion this sea­son

Stream Bank Cul­ti­va­tion is a se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenge af­fect­ing wa­ter bod­ies in the coun­try.

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ZIM­BABWE is an agro-based econ­omy and the agri­cul­ture sec­tor has over the years been con­tribut­ing sig­nif­i­cantly to em­ploy­ment cre­ation and the Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct. Most com­mu­ni­ties de­rive liveli­hoods from hor­ti­cul­ture which has a lu­cra­tive lo­cal mar­ket. How­ever, the is­sue of en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity when un­der­tak­ing such ac­tiv­i­ties needs to be em­pha­sised so that wa­ter bod­ies are pre­served from degra­da­tion and sil­ta­tion.

All farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties should be done at least 30 me­tres away from the high­est flood level of any wet­land and wa­ter body, be it a dam, lake, river, stream or weir. Cul­ti­vat­ing within 30me­tres from the high­est flood level of the bank of a wa­ter body is Stream Bank Cul­ti­va­tion. This prac­tice is not sus­tain­able and it ren­ders the en­vi­ron­ment un­apt to pro­vide its func­tions of life sup­port to hu­mans, wildlife and veg­e­ta­tion.

Stream bank cul­ti­va­tion in most parts of the coun­try has been the ma­jor driver of sil­ta­tion af­fect­ing streams, rivers and dams. This has been noted both in the ru­ral and ur­ban set up of the coun­try driven by the search for mois­ture and al­lu­vium; a de­posit of clay, silt, and sand left by flow­ing flood­wa­ter in a river val­ley or delta, typ­i­cally pro­duc­ing fer­tile soil.

Wa­ter bod­ies are crit­i­cal in sup­port­ing agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties. Aquatic life such as fish as well as ir­ri­gated crops rely on wa­ter bod­ies and con­trib­ute to food se­cu­rity in the na­tion. Ex­tra ef­fort should there­fore be put to en­sure that the avail­able wa­ter bod­ies are pre­served.

The grow­ing of crops and ap­pli­ca­tion of fer­til­iz­ers within the river banks leads to the wa­ter pol­lu­tion through en­rich­ment from dis­solved nu­tri­ents that stim­u­late the growth of aquatic plant life and death of an­i­mal life from lack of oxy­gen.

This will ef­fec­tively dis­turb the nat­u­ral ecosys­tem. In­ten­sive agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties of­ten lead to in­creased loads of pol­lu­tants such as pes­ti­cides and fer­til­iz­ers in rivers and streams. Not only do these af­fect their eco­log­i­cal char­ac­ter, they also im­pact on hu­man health and the qual­ity of drink­ing wa­ter. There is need to em­ploy con­ser­va­tion tillage and or­ganic farm­ing prac­tices in or­der to re­duce the pol­lu­tion loads reach­ing rivers.

Stream bank cul­ti­va­tion has im­me­di­ate and long term con­se­quences. It re­sults in soil ero­sion which in turn causes sil­ta­tion of wa­ter bod­ies. Also, farm chem­i­cals such as fer­tilis­ers, pes­ti­cides and her­bi­cides can be washed into wa­ter bod­ies thus pol­lut­ing the wa­ter.

In the long run, this prac­tice causes wa­ter short­ages. Silted wa­ter bod­ies can only hold wa­ter for short pe­ri­ods of time. For this rea­son Zim­babwe we are left with only a few peren­nial rivers. This af­fects wa­ter avail­abil­ity in ar­eas where peo­ple’s liveli­hoods de­pend on wa­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to the En­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment Act Chap­ter 20:27 as read with Statu­tory In­stru­ment 7 on En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact As­sess­ment and Ecosys­tems Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion, it is an of­fence to de­grade rivers and banks through un­sus­tain­able prac­tices such as stream bank cul­ti­va­tion. Any per­son who con­tra­venes this statu­tory re­quire­ment shall be li­able to a fine not ex­ceed­ing level 10.

Given the im­por­tant roles that wa­ter bod­ies play in our daily lives, it is there­fore crit­i­cal for all of us to take stock of our ac­tions so that we do not con­trib­ute to their degra­da­tion. Let us de­sist from stream bank cul­ti­va­tion and en­sure that rivers and streams are con­served and well pro­tected.

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