The Chronicle

Urban farmers resort to stream bank cultivation

stream bank cultivation

Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
SOME of Bulawayo’s urban farmers are embarking on stream bank cultivation, a serious environmental challenge and major driver of siltation affecting streams, rivers and dams in the country.

A drive around the city’s high- and low-density suburbs yesterday revealed that there are places where maize plants are at different stages of growth along stream banks.

In areas such as Nkulumane, Nketa, North End and Pumula suburbs, the maize crop is right on the banks and if a heavy downpour were to pound the city, most of the crop will be underwater.

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) have been holding awareness campaigns on the dangers stream bank cultivation but some farmers are not taking heed of their advice.

Those who have taken the advice to cultivate at designated places are part of urban farmers who benefitted under the Intwasa programme to enhance food security.

Last season, the programme yielded a bumper harvest for most who would have planted their maize. It seems there is a great need for land as there are more and more urban farmers growing mainly maize and sweet potatoes in order to feed their families.

The need for land has resulted in the rise in stream bank cultivation. According to EMA, farming activities should be done at least 30 metres away from the highest flood level of any wetland and water body, be it a dam, lake, river, stream or weir.

EMA Bulawayo provincial environment officer, Mrs Sithembisiwe Ndlovu said they had done awareness campaigns to show how dangerous stream bank cultivation was to the environment.

“We did awareness programmes to tell them not to cultivate 30 metres from the stream banks. When we cultivate, we loosen the soil, when the rains come, that soil is washed into our water bodies.

There are chemicals that are being used by farmers like fertiliser and pesticides and that goes into water bodies,” said Mrs Ndlovu.

The growing of crops and application of fertilizers within the river banks leads to the water pollution through enrichment from dissolved nutrients that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen.

Mrs Ndlovu said stream bank cultivation was an offence and encouraged people not to practice it. “It is an offence to do that and if you commit the offence, you must be arrested. The local authority has their own ways to deal with stream bank cultivators.

We will keep on holding awareness campaigns,” said Mrs Ndlovu. According to the Environmental Management Act Chapter as read with Statutory Instrument 7 on Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection Regulation, it is an offence to degrade rivers and banks through unsustainable practices such as stream bank cultivation. Any person who contravenes this statutory requirement shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level ten.

According to recent Bulawayo Council minutes, Bulawayo Deputy Mayor Councillor Mlandu Ncube said the local authority relevant by-laws should be enforced.

Councillor Rodney Jele explained that council rangers were very few and did not have adequate transport to enforce the by-laws on stream bank cultivation. However, he said council will soon recruit more rangers.

The fine for stream bank cultivation is pegged at $547. After paying the fine, an offender’s crops are slashed.