By Vumani Mthiyane
Livestock in Umzingwane district is likely to decline by more than 50 percent due to the massive effects of bush encroachment that is quickly eclipsing the grasslands in that district, it has been learnt.
Bush encroachment is a natural phenomenon characterised by excessive expansion of bush at the expense of other plant species, especially grasses with a severe negative consequence on key ecosystem services on agricultural production and groundwater recharge.
“The grazing pastures at Chief Gwebu area have been depleted by bush encroachment yet the communal farmers are livestock breeders. As it is now our cattle are now feeding along the road from communal lands right up to Bulawayo because of this acacia (ugagu) which has covered the whole area,” said Umzingwane Member of Parliament, Levi Mayihlome.
“We are therefore calling for our scientists and Environmental Management Agency to look at ways of containing that bush. There could be programmes to clear or make economic activities that can benefit the locals.
“We have seen that happening in countries like Namibia where such bush can be used for furniture, fencing droppers and fodder. If these encroachments are not contained now, in the next fifty years we will be nowhere to graze our cattle.
“Researchers and scientists must seriously do something and communities must not view this as a threat but an opportunity as it comes along with both merits and demerits.”
Bulawayo village senior kraal head, Didizela Ndlovu under chief Gwebu echoed similar sentiments with the MP saying his area no longer has grasslands due to massive growth of acacia trees.
“Ugagu lobuhobe (acacia trees) have invaded our grazing lands such that our cattle have no pastures. We are therefore appealing for government assistance to give us stock feed and to destroy these trees,” said the kraal head adding that the problem stretches from Mawabeni, Sibomvu, Doyana and right up to Mbizingwe.
A villager from ward 4 Bulawayo village, Johnson Khumalo said: “Bush encroachment is a serious issue and we are appealing to the departments of Forest Commission and EMA to come and assist us in cutting these invasive species and create grazing paddocks for our cattle. Villagers will provide labour while the technocrats will guide us”
“These trees are not only eclipsing the grass but their thorns can destroy the cow udders and tits and as a result the calves die. The thorns are also a danger to humans,” said Khumalo.
Senzeni Ncube from Bonjeni village said open grasslands and paddocks are needed in order to improve the national herd.
Contacted for comment, Matabeleland south, Forestry Commission Provincial Extension Manager, Bekezela Tshuma said as a department they have programmes that address bush encroachments.
“We have programmes of woodland management, where affected communities come up with a plan for their land. They have to be guided by the bylaws on how to preserve their natural resources and at the same time benefiting from their land.
“As forestry commission, we allow communities affected by bush encroachment to do bush clearing in order for grazing grass to grow.
“However, this a twofold scenario because harvesting of acacia seeds can make good stock feed while its wood can be sold as firewood,” said Tshuma.