“Communities in Flames“ An International Conference on Community Involvement in Fire Management
25-28 July 2001, Balikpapan, Indonesia
Précis of the Conference Key Points and Next Steps Disturbance is present in all natural ecosystems, and management of forests must take into account change created by a variety of agents, including fire induced by humans. Fire is a ubiquitous disturbance factor in both space and time, and it cannot be ignored. However not all fire is harmful. In some cases, fire is essential for forest regeneration; in others it destroys forests and has serious adverse social and economic consequences. It is important to differentiate between harmful and beneficial fires. Local communities are often blamed for harmful forest fires whether they have started them or not. This view tends to encourage fire and forest management authorities to perceive local communities as the problem rather than as part of the solution to mitigating unwanted forest fires. In this recently held international conference entitled Communities in Flames, papers presented from around the world demonstrated that local communities can and do manage fires in many situations and for many different reasons. Communities in Flames was a first step in collecting more examples of Community Based Fire Management (CBFiM) and raising awareness. The attendance of over 120 people from over 21 countries represents 7 private companies, 19 government agencies, 12 non-government agencies, 13 international level actors, 13 development projects and 9 donors and the discussion and contributions they provided is a strong endorsement of the view that communities can and do play an important role in the management of fires. However, Communities cannot provide the complete solution to dealing with harmful forest fires. Other stakeholders, including the government and the private sector, must also play a substantial role in forest fire management. In East Kalimantan, where the international conference was held, examples were given of large land clearing fires lit by commercial interests that local communities were ill equipped to extinguish. CBFiM does not mean that communities have the sole responsibility to manage fire on the landscape, but rather should act as one of the critical stakeholders in decision-making processes. In most cases, communities will not be in a position to provide a complete fire management system, but rather should be considered as one factor of a comprehensive approach that involves all major actors including the government and the private sector. Local people are often in the best position to manage or prevent fires. The existence of local information, techniques or traditional knowledge, also referred to as indigenous knowledge, is well documented for many aspects of community activities, such as medicinal plants and non-timber forest products. The impact of fires on a forest, positive or negative, depends on the fire regime that is suitable for the ecology of the forest type under management. People who live in a locality in which fires burn will often know the local conditions and many of the components of this fire regime well. In this international conference, many examples were given of how communities can and do apply this traditional knowledge when they use and manage fires. There are many different ways in which communities participate in fire management and many different social and economic incentives for them to do so. In general, when communities have a sense of ownership they are more inclined to take an interest and action in the management of fire. This conference provided a spectrum of examples of incentives and their resultant mobilisation of communities. The conference content provides a sound base for improved understanding of communities and their fire. There is significant diversity represented in these community-based approaches. In order for CBFiM to progress, it must embrace this diversity and draw out similarities from the different community contexts. To better characterise our understanding of community based fire management, further analysis is needed. Outputs from the International Conference Communities in Flames and some related activities include: o Documents such as the Proceedings of the Conference and potentially an FAO case study series, a booklet for worldwide distribution on CBFiM and fact sheets on CBFiMo A Network based on the participants and other interested people and organisations that attended or were involved currently represents over 25 countries, 7 private companies, 19 government agencies, 12 non-government agencies, 13 international level actors, 13 development projects and 9 donors.Possible next steps include o Communications such as translation of materials into other languages, WebPages and e-mail list serveo A meeting to consider a typology for CBFiM o Establishment of a working group to consider a definition of CBFiMo Presentation of conference findings at ASEAN publications release on August 14th in Jakartao The CBFiM perspective will be presented at a Ministerial Conference on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance being organised by the World Bank in Septembero Release of proceedings later in the year perhaps associated with a Community Based Fire Management activity in a country of the South East Asian Region.
For more information please contact:
Dr. Peter MOORE Coordinator Project FireFight South East Asia;