Danga Forest: A taste of traditional conservation Part 2

Sifelani Tonje

Significance and importance of Danga forest
It stands as an oasis in a desert, a place which shows that once upon a time, there was a thick forest in the valley. An expert on the environment, Mr Dakarayi Dhliwayo, is convinced that, “the forest is repository of ecosystems, where small and big animals can be found.”

It is of great importance to herbalists who get roots, tubers and herbs from there. Those who believe in traditional religion hold the place in awe. “Kudhayakwo mwaionekwa mhondoro kunyanya paita kunge pane zvashaishika zveida kunasiririswa,” (In early times lion would be seen especially when something wrong would need to be corrected) said the late Mbuya Mwathauseni Jeza (110).

It plays a significant and important role especially during difficult times such as dry seasons and people want to carry out the rainmaking ceremonies called Makoto/Mushosho.

Sekuru Mupisi (94) says that, “Ndimwo mwaihwara vanhu kana vahlaseiyiwa ngemaNguni. (This is where people took refugee when persued by the Nguni warriors)

“They would hide there in the forest where there was cool water. They would sometimes get drinking water from the nearby Chinwavandau Lake. It can also be a tourist centre where even students can come for learning purposes on environment, ecology and conservation.”

Challenges and threats
It is sad to note that despite conservation methods, some rogue and truant villagers find a way in the forest armed with the malignant and devastating axes to fall down trees for firewood and brick-moulding. The big and seemingly impregnable forest is slowly but surely receding inward.

Village head Mutorwa

Asked on how best such practices can be nipped in the bud, Baba Cephas Chibuwe said, “Tinovaronzera kuti wabatwa eitema imwombe,” (We tell them that one is fined a cow for deforestation).

Surprisingly, it appears that some people prefer punishment than conservation.

Due to the huge demand for settlement, a lot of people are now ring-fencing the forests to such an extent there is now too much siltation inside the lake that the water no longer last the whole year.

The leadership is convinced that, “Midzimu aingadakari kuzwi mwafenzwa (the ancestors won’t be happy if the forest get fenced) by National Parks,” says Baba Cephas Chibuwe.

Yet, there appears to be no other way of conserving this great forest other than the fence.

Suggestions and Recommendations
There is every need by relevant stakeholders to look into the conservation and protection of natural and man-made forests. Chipinge is replete with the beautiful and mesmerizing forests, from Ngaone to Mahenye.

If the responsible authorities; from government to traditional authorities do not heed this clarion call, then it follows that the future of Zimbabwe environment with regards to co-existence between human and wildlife shall be in jeopardy.

As of now, Save River is eating into the mainland but when irrigation schemes were introduced in 1936, the river was some 500 meters away. Today, it is barely 30 metres from the fields. If land degradation is left moving at this current pace, the community be battling for land with the desert two generations from now.

Also, the traditional leadership should be amenable to modern-day technology of conservation; from fencing to drone system. If people don’t join hands for a common cause, then history will be judged harshly both by posterity and ancestry.

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