Over the past five years, Somabhula has experienced a number of fire disasters. Last year a 12-year-old boy herding cattle was trapped by a fireball and burnt to death. A few months back, 20 elephants from nearby Debsham Farm were lost to veld fire allegedly started by a cigarette stub.
Despite efforts by environmentalists and other stakeholders, veld fires continue to wreak havoc every year. During the dry seasons some 40 people perished in veld fires around the country. Between 2009-2011 nearly 3 million ha of land was burnt.
Led by the fire committee chairperson, Elfas Maphosa, farmers in Somabhula have devised different methods of fire guards. They have also put together a trained crack team to deal with fires.
“We have lost livestock and grazing vegetation to fire in the past five years on a scale which is shocking,” said Maphosa, adding that the major culprits of veld fires were motorists who would drop cigarette stubs along the highway or leave unattended fires after a breakdown.
“Today we have a trained team of 15 farmers who around the clock are ready to deal with any kind of fire,” he said.
Environmental Management Agency Information and Education officer Timothy Nyoka praised the initiative, saying “According to the 2011 National Fire Report, 60% of veld fires happen about 500 meters from major highways. The farmers have drawn up fire guards along the highway and also resorted to early burning of grass within the vicinity of the roads an occurrence that will go a long way in preventing fire outbreaks throughout the season.”Post published in: News