Bush and Forest Fires inCentral Africa

1 February 2002

Modis Land Rapid Response System:

Fig.1. This image shows fires burning in Central Africa.
The image was acquired by the Moderate- resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)
sensor on 31  January 2002 .
Source:  Image search support at:

Fire is used extensively across RCA. There are three main activities.

  • Large scale poaching: This has its greatest impact in the north and north east of the country. The open savannahs of the Northeast, on the Sudan border, see large fire fronts (50 km) every year, moving southwest as the season progresses. The fires start on the frontier with Sudan in November and move southwest, arriving at Bakouma in February. These are thought to be due to large scale poaching activities. A similar process occurs in the north of the country on the frontier with Chad. Fires of several km’s size advance down towards the Massif des Bongo during November, December, and January. This area is comprised of several national parks. The fires are smaller than those found in the Northwest as the landscape is more fragmented with rivers and woodlands. The Plateau of Ouadda, south of the Massif, sees many large hunting fires later in the season (January to March). This remnant forest area is a home to bush game.

  • Pasture management: Fires are used to stimulate re-growth for cattle in the dry season. This occurs around the town of Bambari (central RCA) and on the routes from Northwest RCA (a livestock breeding area) to the markets in the south. The herdsmen light fires along the route both to stimulate regrowth and to facilitate passage. These fires tend to be at least five km from the road network. The fires are small in size and start in December and continue until March.

  • Agricultural fires: These small fires occur across the country in December and January, but are predominantly close to the road network, being lit to prepare the fields for agriculture. At the same time, farmers burn the area around their crops and villages earlier in the season to avoid accidental fires caused by the passage of pastoralists. The conflict between the two groups, pastoralists and villagers, is a well-known one.

For background information on the fire situation in Central African Republic (CAR): See IFFN country report at:

For more information on the Nyiragongo volcanoe eruption: See news from Planet Ark at:

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