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Illegal Brick Moulding in Hwange Exacerbates Environmental Damage

File image... Faced with climate change induced drought, young men from rural Hwange venture into illegal brick making businesses to make ends meet.

Lack of employment opportunities for young and middle aged people are a driving force behind illegal brick making which is destroying Hwange’s environment.

BY CALVIN MANIKA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  | MAR 1, 2023

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Arnold Mhlanga (28) is waist deep in a dug out pit mixing sand and water to make bricks.

They use sewage that has built up due to ruptured sewer pipes as their source of water.

Mhlanga claims that since he left his rural home five years ago, brickmaking has sustained his life.

“The poor harvests made life in the countryside difficult,” says Mhlanga.

“To provide for my family, I could not wait for donations from organisations. I decided to relocate to town...brick making is now sustaining us.”

The majority of brick making businesses are illegal.

A survey by this publication reveals that communal farmers in Hwange district are still not able to adapt to climate change due to a variety of reasons, including limited access to knowledge and options for adaptation.

The strain is increasing on young people and middle-aged males because rural communities lack the means and resources to execute the multiple potential optimal adaptation options at their disposal.

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), increased warmth and drying in Africa may have an impact on agriculture by cutting crop yields by nearly half from 2020 and beyond.

The already vulnerable and underprivileged groups who depend on climate-sensitive sources of income such as agriculture and natural systems, would be severely harmed by this, the report says.

For the majority of region 4 and region 5 as well as other regions, climate experts forecast less rainfall and greater rainfall variability.

The Hwange district has been enduring recurrent droughts (including mid-season droughts) between 2016 and 2019, and these events, along with other extreme climatic phenomena, are anticipated to continue.

Although these conditions will vary geographically across the region, the region is expected to continue to experience high warming, dryness, and climatic extremes.

Faced with climate change induced drought, young men from rural Hwange are moving into town to make ends meet including through illegal brick making business.

But there are concerns that the type of business was causing land degradation and extensive deforestation as the brick makers leave open pits after harvesting soil needed for their enterprise.

Mbonisi Mpala, (34), a brick maker, does not deny that their actions were destroying the ecosystem.

ALSO READ: Hwange's Rapid Desertification An Environmental Concern

“Unfortunately, it now serves as our primary source of income,” says Mpala.

When asked to comment on the illegal brick making and environmental degradation, Hwange Local Board (HLB) spokesperson, Dumisani Nsingo promised to give this publication a detailed position, but did not despite repeated follow-ups.

Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Matabeleland North Environmental Education and Publicity Officer Mildred Matunga says brick-makers were attracted to Hwange’s abundant clay soils.

“The clay soils are an excellent supply for moulding bricks, and as a result, both large- and small-scale brick moulders have been drawn in significant numbers. The availability of coal and water, which are essential ingredients in brick moulding, further complicates the activities, particularly in the tiny and informal sector.”
Mildred Matunga, EMA Mat North Environmental Education and Publicity Officer

Matunga, however, says this is illegal.

“Since locations on the Hwange Local Board are not approved for brick moulding, all activities there are prohibited,” Matunga says.

Maunga says they are making efforts to stop these unlawful activities including carrying out awareness campaigns.

“The unlawful brick moulders were educated and given advice on how to regularize their operations and do brick moulding responsibly,” she says.

In Zimbabwe, brick moulding activities are regulated under Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 “Environmental Management (Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection) Regulations

The SI says no one shall excavate sand without a license from EMA.

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