Hurungwe's enemy within

HURUNGWE - He is among the few foot soldiers taking the bull by its horns to fight for a better environment among farmers whose livelihood depends on tobacco farming.

Tobacco farming has transformed the lives of resettled farmers here but with a dent on nature.

This explains why Edward Musaniwa Chikwapuro is regarded as a thorn in the flesh by fellow villagers.

His passion for nature is contributing towards the restoration of standards in the green forest around Hurungwe Rural Council’s Ward One in Hilltop Village.

Due to the 71-year-old’s commitment to bring to book suspects who are usually fellow villagers, he has become an “enemy of development” and fellow villagers view him with disdain.

Some are resorting to overstepping fire guards and starting fires at night but he is not losing hope despite it being a “thankless” job. “We must work together and see to it that our grandchildren know that honey comes from bees. Why should we destroy nature?” he tells the Daily News on Sunday.

 Situated about 40 km along Karoi-Chirundu, Hilltop or Warikandamurume resettlement area was established in 2002 after Hurungwe District Council evicted villagers to pave way for the construction of Magunje Dam.

Settled here among new farmers, Chikwapuro remains an epitome of determination in forest conservation though on a voluntary basis.

Married and looking after seven grandchildren whose parents have since died, his love for nature is written all over his face when he talks about the subject.

“I am worried that only a few resettled farmers are taking heed not to destroy trees which they use to cure their tobacco. We advocate for a better future and efforts to curb unwarranted veld fires that destroy nature including birds and bees,” he says.

“Our animals including cattle are affected as there is no grass. We are our own enemies,” he says.

Chikwapuro is among four village environment management monitors covering an area with over 5 000 villagers.

“I used to have a motorbike following up wherever fires started but it broke down three years ago. I cannot afford to have it repaired,” he says.

Chikwapuro covers a distance of over 15 km daily spreading the word against veld fires and this has been a routine for the past five years. “I enjoy it,” he says.

His heart bleeds as more villagers are starting off the tobacco seedbeds along Rukomechi River for their next tobacco season.

“The chemicals they use affect the river water. We teach them to be at least 30 meters away from the river to avoid siltation but it is a challenge. We will advocate for them to be arrested, even if it means they go to jail.

“We must be environment-friendly,” he says. - Criswell Chitsa

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