EMA alerts on 2021 fire season


Veld fires remains environmental and socio-economic threat to Zimbabwe as the country continues to lose considerable amount of land to veld fires each year. Over the years,
the country has been losing over a million hectares of land every year, except notably in 2020
when only 806 457.8hactatres were lost translating to a 30.38% positive decrease from the
2019 season.


The 2020/2021 rainy season had good rains with the country receiving normal
to above normal rainfall. Most areas received torrential rainfalls which resulted in enrichment
of biomass in both natural ecosystems and croplands. A projected record harvest of staple crops and significant output of both cash crops and traditional grains has been made which is also presumed to likely surpass the domestic demand.


This projection indicates towards a very much food secure country thus deserving massive celebration. However, the celebration can
be cut short by the impending threats from veld fires this year, if necessary fire prevention measures are not put in place in time. Statutorily, the veld fire season in Zimbabwe stretches
from 31 July to 31 October each year.

The Environmental Management Agency(EMA) has since developed a fire risk prediction for 2021 using Geo Information System (GIS) by combining two key elements of biomass as indicated by the Normalised Difference Vegetation
Index (NDVI) and the previous fire behaviour as indicated by the burnt area in


Coincidentally,the satelitte images indicate high values of biomass on the ground,even in areas that traditionally had low biomas.This implies that when using biomass as a proxy for
fuel load,then the country is highly vulnerable to veld fires this fire season as projection show that the country is generally in the High(65.2%) to extreme risk(24.7%) to veld fire
outbreaks in the 2021 season, basically as a result of the good rainfall in the 2020/2021 season, as compared to the medium(43.3%) to high(23.1%) fire risk projected in

The provinces at extreme risk are Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Manicaland while Matabeleland provinces, Midlands and Masvingo are this timea athigh risk to veld fires.

As such this calls for farmers and all land users as well as communities to be proactive by putting in place fire preventive measures to protect theabundant yield, environment, lives and property. Some of the fire preventive measures include putting in place standard fireguards and reducing fuel load through hay baling and thatch grass combing.

By so doing, the country would be putting necessary safe guards around its food security, lives and the environment at large. The time to do all this is now before the range land dries up and the weather becomes windy and hot, thus also becoming conducive  toveld fire outbreaks.

The Agency is going on an intensive education and awareness raising
programme to sensitise communities in fire prone areas on veld fire prevention.

The Agency is also going to be supporting same communities in implementing pilot veld fire management projects such as fireguard construction, hay baling and thatch grass combing; as well as serving out Environmental Protection Orders to land owners, users and land occupiers as reminders to put in place all necessary veld fire prevention measures before the onset of the
fire season, failure of which will result in prosecution as per law.

Emphasis is however to communities at risk and all entities with a stake in veld fire management, to take responsibility

by ensuring fires are prevented at all cost as the country thrives to achieve the 25% target reduction in land lost to veld fires in 2021, in line with the dictates of the National Development
Strategy (NDS1) on reduction of land burnt by veld fires.

Achieving this calls for all stakeholders to use the 2021 veld fire risk projection given as a planning tool towards finding lasting solutions in veld fire prevention, and also for the same stakeholders to collaborate and perpetuate the same vision of attaining zero tolerance to veld fires status in 2021 and beyond.

Tendai Guvamombe
the authorTendai Guvamombe