EASTERN NEWS | Fires blur Vumba's spectacular scenery

MUTARE - Rampant veld fire outbreaks that have left Manicaland charred are frustrating local hospitality operators as smoke is now blurring the views of some of the region’s most spectacular scenery.

According to residents, the Vumba Mountains have been the most affected as fires from either side of the Zimbabwean border are choking its views in the resultant haze.

“The famed Vumba scenery views have disappeared, hidden by the haze from several fires in Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” George Lock a Vumba resident said.

Lock said most of the fires were being caused by human action ranging from hunting, agricultural activities to pure negligent and superstitious beliefs.

“Fires started spontaneously are probably about one percent while the other 99 percent are started by people who have hunting dogs and want to flush out game or who want to clear bush area for cropping; or who want early green grass for their cattle or who have a mistaken belief that the bush must burn in order to bring the rain; or carelessly by people discarding lit cigarette tabs from vehicles.

“This is coupled with a general failure to maintain fireguards,” Lock said.

John Kerr also said in some limited instances litter could also start fires making reference to bottles which he said should not be dumped in the environment.

“I am told some fires start from bottles … so we remove them from the veld if found.”

He said while fireguards were the means to limit veld fires there are times where the winds would be so strong that they would carry the fire across them making prevention the most effective means to preserve the environment from being destroyed.

“Fireguards sometimes help but in 2012 they didn’t help as the uphill winds went into vortex mode and the flames jumped the breaks,” Kerr said.

Beyond choking the beautiful views of Vumba’s breath-taking scenery, veld fires further endanger its montane environs.

Samir Shasha who owns Leopard Rock is, however, not impressed by government arms and parastatals’ efforts in preventing and controlling the fires suggesting even protests against their inaction.

“Maybe as residents we should get a permit to protest in front of Ema and Forestry Commission and invite their donors and the press.

“Maybe that will get their attention,” Shasha opines.

Manicaland tobacco yields tumble

MUTARE - Tobacco yields are tumbling due to disease outbreaks blamed on poor cropping practices by mostly small-scale farmers in Manicaland.

Outgoing Manicaland minister of State for Provincial Affairs Monica Mutsvangwa revealed this as she officially opened the just-ended Manicaland Agricultural Show which ran under the theme “Economic growth through collaborative efforts” as she urged farmers to adhere to government regulations.

“Tobacco farmers are not adhering to the tobacco legislation dates and this is a big threat to tobacco production. The incidences of pests and disease infestation are going up exponentially as farmers are not taking heed of the May 15 deadline for tobacco stalk destruction.

“Production is going down so much that the average yield per hector is ranging from 800 to 1000 kgs. This is worsened by farmers who are failing to practice good agricultural practices like liming and rotation,” said Mutsvangwa.

Manicaland has 23 244 hectares under Virginia tobacco with most of it in Makoni and Mutare districts.

Mutsvangwa also bemoaned tobacco middlemen for further eating into farmers’ dwindling incomes promising government intervention.

“It is with deep concern that the middle man at auction floors continue to rip farmers off creating hopelessness among many and we hope TIMB is going to plug that,” she said.

Zimbabwe’s farmers have, however, sold more tobacco this year than ever before — fuelling hopes that the sector could ease the country’s severe shortage of US dollars.

TIMB’s production and sales progress report for flue-cured tobacco shows that the country’s yield slid from 1 339 kg per hectare in 2007 to 792kg per hectare in 2018 before picking up to 9 434kg per hectare in 2009.

Yields doubled from 2009 to close 2010 at 1 842kg per hectare before slowing down marginally in 2011 to 1 689kg/hectare.

In 2012, yields grew marginally to 1 893kg per hectare before retreating slightly to 1 852kg per hectare in 2013. In 2014, they beat the 2 000kg per hectare mark to close the season at 2 014kg/ha.

Despite the growth, yields remain lower than peak levels of 2 792 and 2 666kg per hectare recorded in 2000 and 1995 respectively.

5 Mutare Poly students graduate posthumously

MUTARE - A sombre atmosphere engulfed Mutare Polytechnic’s graduation ceremony in Mutare last Friday after the announcement that five students were graduating posthumously as the institution lost seven students, five to road accidents over the past year.

Poniso Watema, the college principal said this was one of their worst years ever in terms of student mortality.

“Regrettably, the past year has been a bad year for the polytechnic. The institution witnessed the death of seven students and graduates some who perished in road carnage,” Watema said.

One of the students Thulani Takudzwa Murwira even had a best student award which was collected by his family.

She gave the names of the other students who graduated posthumously as Mongikazi Tshabalala, Melody Madzamuse, Cephas Makore and Primerose Katandika.

Nicolas Mupoperi and Bete Bee were still pursuing during their studies when they also passed on.

“In as much as we accept death as a natural and inevitable occurrence, we still feel sorely touched when we lose any one of our students,” Watema said.

She said the losses were particularly devastating to their families who invested a lot in supporting their education and training with the “hope that they would play their small part in the socio-economic development of the country.”

Meanwhile, the college has had a 24 percent increase in enrolment this year surpassing the 20 percent government target.

It now has 2 972 students up from 2 409 in 2017.

Science and technology-related courses have an enrolment of 1 558 students which translates to 52 percent where, however, females still only constitute 15 percent.

“The institution is working towards an increase in female student uptake of male dominated courses by employing various strategies.

“In this regard, the institution has since launched the female students in engineering programme in partnership with the Zimbabwe Institute of Engineering...,” Watema said.

She said they have since registered 12 female students for National Engineering Students Awards Competition to be held in September where they will be showcasing their inventions.

Watema said there was need to inspire female students by facilitating their interaction with professionals in order to “expand the community of women who are passionate about engineering and technology”.

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