Namibia Round Table on Fire, Windhoek, 10-11 November 1999

Namibia Round Table on Fire
Windhoek, 10-11 November 1999

(IFFN No. 25, July 2001)

1. Rationale and Introduction

In his opening speech Mr. TangeniErkana, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, laid thefoundations of the Namibia Round Table on Fire for the preparation of a nationalfire policy for the country.
On behalf of the Ministry ofEnvironment and Tourism, I warmly welcome the participants to this two-dayworkshop.
As befits this occasion, I wish toreiterate the mission of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which isrooted in the philosophy of sustainable management of our natural resources, ina manner that is environmentally sound. In regard to this, all the policies andpieces of legislation in this ministry support this philosophy.
With forest fires as a point ofreference, I have noted that the current draft Forest Bill provides forFire Management Committees in wooded areas and gives the minister powers todeclare Fire Seasons and prohibit specific activities in forested lands whencurrent Fire Danger Ratings necessitateit.
In the attempts by the Government ofNamibia to adopt the organised and systematic management of fire in landmanagement, we should be motivated by the following facts:

  •  It is estimated that 3-5 million hectares (ha)of forests, bush and grasslands are burned every year in Namibia. Despite this alarming magnitude, no systematic and nationwidefire extension work has been carried out, except in pilot areas such as theCaprivi and more recently the Kavango Regions.

Traditionally, burning is considered anecessary activity before each rainy season to renew grass for grazing purposesand also for the preparation of land for cultivation. Furthermore, no nationallyrecognized policy on fire management is available.

  • Uncontrolled burning is also resulting inconsiderable economic losses throughdamage to valuable and non timber resources, loss of grazing and consequentincreased life stock and wildlife mortality, all of which are to the detrimentof the local and national economies .

  • Internationally, the concern is that extensiveburning of forests and grasslands is contributing directly to the anthropogenicgreenhouse effect and therebyinfluencing global climate change. It is argued that widespread fires in thewooded areas are reducing the overall phytomass or vegetation, thereby causing arelease of radiatively active trace gases and aerosols into the regional and global atmosphere.

  • From the recent case of extensive forest firesin Indonesia, it is now appreciated that gases from such fires cause untoldrespiratory and other illnesses.

  •  It is also true that, just as the effects offires on ecosystems are many, the causes are also from a variety of sources,hence the need for wide consultations in formulating a policy are essential andcrucial.

 Because of the above local andglobal concerns, the Government of Namibia entered into an agreement with theGovernment of Finland to implement a project, which was at the beginning, knownas the Fire Control Project in Caprivi which started in 1996. ThisProject was more recently renamed the IntegratedFire Management Project with the realisation that fire is a legitimateland management tool, if carefully timed and used. It is therefore important forNamibia as a nation to distinguish between the legitimate and organised use offire as opposed to the intentional abuse of fires which often have destructiveconsequences.

After three years of theimplementation of the integrated fire management project in the Caprivi, theevaluation of recent satellite imageries suggest that there has been a steadydecrease in the frequency and extent of burning in the region. Despite thispleasing trend, uncontrolled fires are still to be found in the Caprivi, bothwithin the Communal farming areas and in the protected national parks.

It is also a telling point this year,that the commercial harvesting of thatching grass by rural communities, is becoming a major industry in the NorthEastern part of Namibia. To sustain the economic benefits of such commercialharvesting, the careful management of fire is required. However, this is but oneof the benefits of managing fire.

A major dilemma is that as firesrage through our woodlands and grasslands every dry season, no one clearly takesresponsibility, especially if it happens on public and communal lands. Tocomplicate matters further, most of these fires stem from agriculturalactivities related to cultivation and traditional range practices. In addition,others are started by hunters who often do not stop to consider the widerconsequences of the fires when they spread, as they often do. Arsonists who bumfor the sheer pleasure of it are a special and unfortunate source.

The various causes and sources offire therefore demand that its management be an issue of public concern and mustinvolve all sectors of government which are concerned with land management andalso education. For this reason, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism haschosen merely to act as a catalyst to provoke debate at a national level on theplanned and safe use and if need be, the prevention of fire from specified areasof our region. We invite non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to activelysupport our efforts in this regard.

The ministry is delighted to notethat several Government Ministries and NGOs are in attendance at this workshop.It is also encouraging that experts and policy makers from neighbouring SADCcountries are also going to participate in this workshop. I extend a specialwelcome to them.

Furthermore it is quite encouragingthat some consultants who have done some work for us on fire management aregoing to make presentations. We value your international experience andencourage you to exchange ideas with us and above all, to stimulate our thinkingin formulating a well worked-out and researched document on fire management thatcan be implemented by Namibians.

We recognise that fires also know nointernational boundaries and often cross our borders with neighbouring countries.It is hence extremely important that a national fire policy considers crossborder management issues.

In conclusion, this ministry will bekeen to have the workshop consider a number of issues and challenges. Theseinclude:

  • the formulation of policies that enable widecommunity participation in the responsible custodianship of natural resourcesthrough the wise use of fire.

  • the need for a common philosophy acrossgovernment ministries regarding fire use and the sharing of responsibility forits management the development of joint strategies that are accepted and fused

  • with national and international initiativessuch as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) andthe Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management

  • the promotion of decentralized systems of firecontrol to give more responsibility to regional governments, who must be seen toassist the central government in activities such as rangeland management

  • the harmonization of sectoral pieces oflegislation to reflect a common philosophy

  •  the possible development of regional orbilateral protocols to deal with cross-border fire issues just as much we arenow encouraging the concept of trans-boundary conservation areas in the SADCregion.

After saying the above, it isappropriate to the occasion to extend my ministry’s sincere gratitude to theGovernment of Finland for providing the technical support and the funds to runthe Namibia-Finland Forestry Programme, of which the Fire Component is a part.

I wish you the very best in yourdeliberations and look forward to a milestone policy paper in the not toodistant future. I now declare this workshop open and I thank you.

2. Preparation of the Round Table

In early 1998 the Namibia-FinlandForestry Programme was supported by the Fire Ecology Research Group which in thesame year established the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC). One of the mainaims of the GFMC is to facilitate countries, the UN system and otherinternational organizations, including NGOs, in developing fire scienceprogrammes, technology transfer to fire management and policy development (see: <>).In consultation with the Research Group / GFMC is was proposed to develop a”National Fire Policy and Guidelines on Fire Management in Namibia(Goldammer 1998). The following paragraphs are extracted from the 1998 reportand updated where necessary.

2.1 Fire in Namibia: History, Useand Problems

In the evolutionary history naturalfires caused by lightning have significantly contributed to shape Namibia’ssavanna and forest ecosystems. In addition, fire influence through traditionalburning practices over millennia has strongly favoured and selected plantcommunities that are considered to be sustainable and long-term stable fireecosystems if not affected by additional disturbances.

However, in the recent past fireregimes are undergoing dramatic changes. This is the consequence of decline innomadic life and the overall increasing human population pressure on these areaswhere fire is being used extensively as a land utilization tool, e.g., forconversion of forested/wooded lands into agricultural lands; for maintaininggrazing lands; and for facilitating the utilization of non-wood forest products,e.g. honey collection and hunting. Formerly sustainable time-space-firerelationships are being altered in the wake of changing land-use practices.Forest ecosystem and site degradation becomes most visible where excessivedisturbances by logging have changed the equilibrium between vegetationcomposition (tree species, occupation of sites by invading grasses), fuelcharacteristics (available flammable material), and fire behaviour. One of themain reasons of degradation is the increase of wind and water erosion of theKalahari sand soils. As a consequence, ecological damages and loss ofbiodiversity become more and more visible. High economic losses are caused byfire damaging valuable timber and non-timber resources, natural regeneration,and planted forests. Indiscriminate burning in Namibia’s forests and grazinglands has also led to increasing losses in pastoral resources and losses ofdomestic livestock. Fires in the interface of wildlands and residential areasoften cause the loss of human lives, property, and other values at risk, e.g.,food stores, power and communication lines, other infrastructures, andlivelihoods.

In addition, large-scale burning ofvegetation exerts impacts on the regional and global atmosphere. Emissions fromwildland fires in Namibia are important sources of radiatively active tracegases and aerosols. Those fires which are associated with the degradation ofvegetative cover consequently lead to the reduction of the carbon sequestrationpotential. Thus, they contribute directly to the anthropogenic greenhouse effect.

Altogether, the current levels ofwildfire occurrence and severity are seen as incompatible with the nation’ssocial goals and resource management objectives.

This proposal to develop Guidelineson Fire Management in Namibia is aimed to provide the basis for an in-depthpreparation of a set of guidelines for the various administrative settings andecosystems concerned. Major emphasis in this proposal is on fire prevention,particularly on a community-based approach.

2.2 Crosscutting / Intersectoral andInternational Issues

This report seeks cross-referencesto various national regulations and strategic plans. The proposal is alsoconsidering regional plans for the Southern African region and internationalbinding and non-binding conventions.

2.2.1 The Namibia Forestry StrategicPlan

The Namibia Forestry Strategic Plan(Directorate of Forestry 1996) provides the framework for fire policy andmanagement planning. The Strategic Plan is based on ecological, environmental,cultural, and socio-economic considerations. The Plan considers “Production,Protection and Participation” as the three imperatives of forest policy.

In this context, the planunderscores the need of reducing the negative effects of fires by stating inSection 3.2.1 that

“The occurrence andseverity of uncontrolled and accidental forest fires has to be reduced, and thepolicy of burning off patches of woodlands to improve hunting grounds, should bechanged to one using fire only as a controlled tool under specific circumstances”.

Furthermore it is stated in Section3.2.4 that

“Participation of localcommunities and the private sector is essential for the sustainable use of theforest resources. The active involvement of local communities in management andconservation of forest resources is desirable for the purposes of environmentalprotection and for significant increases in rural incomes and employment levels.”

Besides the statement, that “Policyformulation must precede the formulation of forest legislation” (Section3.3.1) it is also underscored that “there is no reason why differentregions in Namibia should not adopt different policies” – an importantstatement which will open the options for the development of fire policies whichare in accordance with the distinctly different impacts of fire (or fire regimes)in the various vegetation types of the country.

Under the expected contribution ofthe programmes towards the achievement of sectoral and national objectives (Section5) the environmental forestry programme underscores that

“Strategic forestprotection of biodiversity and sequestering of carbon (to restrict potentialclimate change) will make possible for Namibia to meet the requirements of theInternational Conventions on Biodiversity and Climate Change.”

The Namibia Climate Change Reportmust be seen in this context (see para 2.4).

2.2.2 Forest Act, Forest Ordinance,and Regulations under the Forest Act

The Forest Act No.72 of 1968provides some brief procedural regulations on clearing of fire belts and rulesof fire control. The Preservation of Trees and Forest Ordinance, assented to 8July 1952[1],regulates the use of fire in construction of fire belts and assistance in firesuppression. The new Forest Act of Namibia (which is in preparation) willprovide rules on fire management. The Final Draft of the Regulations under thenew Forest Act of Namibia shall provide several regulations concerning fire,namely on access and connecting roads in forest reserves and on the composition,functions and procedures of fire management committees.

2.2.3 Other Regulations of theMinistry for Agriculture, Water and Rural Development, Ministry for Environmentand Tourism, and the Department of Women’s Affairs

At the time of writing the 1998report no statements could be found regarding fire policies, rules orregulations under the responsibility of the Ministry for Agriculture, Water andRural Development. The Ministry of Local Governments and Housing in a policystatement (not formally decided by the Cabinet) has taken over theresponsibility for rural fire control.

The Directorate of EnvironmentalAffairs, Ministry for Environment and Tourism, has clearly indicated that itwill support future intersectoral policies in fire management.

The Office of the President,Department of Women’s Affairs has finalized the National Gender Policy in 1998.In Section “Gender and the Management of the Environment” emphasis hasbeen given on the role of women in protecting the environment. Although firemanagement has not yet bee mentioned explicitly in that section it is expectedthat more detailed activity programmes will include a fire component.

2.2.4 UNConvention on Climate Change

Namibia in 1995 has ratified theUnited Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Consequently,Namibia submitted a report detailing its contributions and its vulnerability toclimate change to the Secretariat of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.The inventory of contributions to climate change includes emissions from theagricultural sector, notably those from land-use changes and vegetation fires.Thus, from the point of view of this binding international convention, Namibiais required to provide quantitative assessments of free-burning vegetation fires.

The mitigation strategies are animportant part of the Climate Change Report. A national fire management policyand a derived fire management strategy, as proposed by this report, consequentlywill have an important focus on the reduction of those fires which aredetrimental not only from the point of view of protection of ecosystems,biodiversity, and productivity, but also in regard to contributing to regionaland global changes of atmosphere and climate.

2.2.5 The UN International Decade onNatural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR)

The development of a national firepolicy and guidelines on fire management are in accordance with the UNResolution 44/236 in which the 1990’s were designated as the InternationalDecade on Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR). The basic idea behind thisproclamation of the Decade was and still remains to be the unacceptable andrising levels of losses which disasters continue to incur on the one hand, andthe existence, on the other hand, of a wealth of scientific and engineeringknow-how which could be effectively used to reduce losses resulting fromdisasters. The general objective of the Decade (which ends in 1999) was:

to reduce through concertedinternational actions, especially in developing countries, loss of life,property damage and economic disruption caused by natural disasters such asearthquakes, windstorms, tsunamis, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, wildfiresand other calamities of natural origin such as grasshopper and locustinfestations.

The following four goals representthe desired destinations which Decadeefforts should lead to:

  1.  improve the capacity of each country to mitigate the effects of naturaldisasters expeditiously and effectively, paying special attention to assistingdeveloping countries in the assessment of disaster damage potential and in theestablishment of early warning systems and disaster-resistant structures whenand where needed;

  2. devise appropriate guidelines and strategies for applying existingscientific and technical knowledge, taking into account the cultural andeconomic diversity among nations;

  3. foster scientific and engineering endeavours aimed at closing criticalgaps in knowledge in order to reduce loss of life and property;

  4. develop measures for the assessment, prediction, prevention andmitigation of natural disasters through programmes of technical assistance andtechnology transfer, demonstration projects, and education and training,tailored to specific disasters and locations, and to evaluate the effectivenessof those programmes.

Based on the above broadly definedgoals, it was found necessary to focus on a number of specific areas ofactivities which would mark progress to be achieved at the end of the Decadeperiod.

By the year 2000, all countries, aspart of their plan to achieve sustainable development, should have in place:

  1.  comprehensive national assessments of risks from natural hazards, withthese assessments taken into account in development plans;

  2. mitigation plans at national and/or local levels, involving long-termprevention and preparedness and community awareness, and

  3. ready access to global, regional, national and local warning systems andbroad dissemination of warnings.

Namibia as a signatory country ofthe IDNDR has placed its National Committee of Namibia under the auspices of theOffice of the Prime Minister (Emergency Unit). In the information provided byNamibia’s national report to the IDNDR it was clearly stated that the countryconsidered wildfires to be a prevailing hazard.[2]

The development of a national firepolicy, fire management guidelines and management capabilities in Namibia willassist the government of Namibia to meet the targets set by the IDNDR. As theDecade will be terminated by end of December 1999, successor arrangements haveto be defined at national levels 

2.2.6 The Rome Declaration onForestry and the FAO Forest Resources Assessment 2000

TheFAO convened the Ministerial Meeting on Forestry on “Sustainability Issuesin Forestry, the National and International Challenges”, Rome, 8-9 March1999. On 9 March 1999 the Forest Ministers released the “Rome Declarationon Forestry”. The statements regarding forest fires are based on the resumée”Global Action to Address Forest Fires” which was a summary of therecommendations of the Expert Meeting on Public Policies Affecting Forest Fires(FAO, Rome, October 1998). The Ministerial Meeting, among other, welcomed therecommendations the Fourteenth Session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO) (Rome,2 March 1999) and encouraged their endorsement by the FAO Council with a view tofacilitating their early implementation.

In the RomeDeclaration on Forestry of 9 March 1999 the ministers responsible for forests ortheir representatives, among other:

  • notedthat the causes of forest fires are many and complex and recognizing the need toharness efforts to prevent forest fires as well as to address the multiplecauses and consequences of fires around the globe,

  • welcomedthe meeting on Public Policies Affecting Forest Fires hosted by FAO in October1998 and encourage FAO to take action to implement the recommendations directedto it,

  • calledon FAO and other international organizations, donor agencies and interestedcountries to work together to address the underlying causes of forest fires, toimprove the coordination of their efforts to prevent and combat forest fires andto rehabilitate affected areas with a view to providing assistance requested bygovernments,

Beginning with the Round Table onFire Namibia intends to implement the recommendations of the Rome Declaration.

It must also be mentioned thatNamibia must provide the fire statistical information to the FAO as required bythe Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000). In the frame of the FRA 2000the FAO collects data on the numbers of fires and area burned for the period1990‑99 for all wildfires or any fire occurring on forest and other woodedland. Like many countries Namibia must urgently build up technical and humanresource capabilities to conduct fire inventories on a regular base.

2.2.7 Regional Cooperation withinthe Southern African Development Community (SADC)

All member countries of the SouthernAfrican Development Community (SADC) have one unifying problem, among other, theproblems of changing fire regimes associated with population growth, land-usechanges, and land degradation. It is consequent that SADC came up with proposalson a regional Southern African wildfire management project. In 1992, duringdiscussions between representatives of the Forestry Sector Technical Co‑ordinationUnit (FSTCU) of SADC and USDA Forest Service, the possibility of a SADC‑wideregional forest fire management system was raised. This led to terms ofreference in 1994 for an investigation or review of the situation in eachcountry, a report on the findings and recommendations that were discussed at ameeting in Lusaka in November 1995, attended by representatives of 11 of thethen 12 SADC countries and by the project team, consisting of experts from theUnited States and Canada. The review was sponsored by the United StatesDepartment of Agriculture Forest Service and the Canadian InternationalDevelopment Agency (CIDA). A follow-up report was produced in February 1996.This report contains recommendations leading to project proposals which arepresented in some detail. A list of recommendations contained in the follow‑upreport was provided by Kromhout (1999) and is given below.

SADC‑Wide Recommendations

Chapter 3 of the SADC RegionalForest Fire Management System Review report details the followingrecommendations:

  1.  All resource management agencies involved with a fire responsibility needto adopt a proactive attitude to fire management. As a first step, a positionshould be dedicated to fire management at the national level and preferably atthe regional and project levels as well. The establishment of these positionswill provide accountability for the fire management program.                                                                                                Þ Status: accepted in principle by member states attending a workshop in Lusaka, Zambia,                                  21-23 November1995.

  1. SADC members should commit to building cooperative fire managementarrangements with each other in order to accomplish their fire managementobjectives, as opposed to “going it alone”. These arrangements shouldinclude sharing of resources, operational understandings on common border zones,joint participation in training initiatives, research and technology, andinformation exchange.                                                                                         ÞStatus: accepted in principle by member states attending the workshop in Lusaka,Zambia, November 1995,      and further developed in Project Proposal No.1.

  1. FSTCU should arrange for a team to visit Angola to gather informationregarding their fire management situation which could be included in an updatedversion of this report.                                                                                ÞStatus: completed with FSTCU visit to Angola in August of 1995 and subsequentpublication of “Addendum         to the SADC Regional Forest Fire ManagementSystems Review Project” in November 1995.

  1. FSTCU should convene a meeting of SADC country forestry, national parkand wildlife representatives to review this report and to chart a course forimplementation of the Project Proposals.                                                    ÞStatus: completed through workshop held in Lusaka, Zambia, 21-23 November 1995,attended by 11 of the      12 SADC member states.

  1. Following the meeting mentioned in above (No.4), SADC should consider theneed to develop a strategic action plan for implementing a fire managementprogram in Southern Africa.                                                                ÞStatus: to be addressed; accepted in principle at Lusaka workshop.

  1. In the absence of comprehensive data on fireoccurrence and extent at the national level in most countries, a regionalprogram should be developed to monitor and report vegetation loss to fire.                                            ÞStatus: accepted in principle at Lusaka workshop and further developed inProject

Proposal No.1.


SADC Regional Wildfire ManagementProject Proposals

Incorporating the direction andprioritization provided by the delegates to the Lusaka workshop, four ProjectProposals, each with several Modules, have been developed:

Regional Wildfire ManagementCoordination


  • Wildfire Management Coordinating Group

  • Wildfire Management Specialist

  • Wildfire Monitoring and Assessment InformationSystem

  • Equipment Development and Acquisition

  •  International Wildfire Agreements

  • Wildfire Weather Data Network

Wildfire Personnel Training


  • Basic Wildfire Suppression Training

  •  Forestry College Improvements

  • Mid-Career Internships

Wildfire Prevention and PublicEducation


  • Wildfire Prevention Information Materials

  • Extension Training ‑ Wildfire Management

Operational Wildfire Research andTechnology Transfer


  •  Prescribed Burning ‑ Miombo Woodlands

  • Operational Fire Management Research ‑Zambezi Teak Woodlands

  • Wildfire Management Demonstration Centres

After the proposal to USAID to fundthe implementation of the wildfire management proposals was declined. FSTCU isstill seeking assistance in implementing the projects that have been identified.Although donors dislike funding that cannot be taken over by the budgets ofrecipients, to avoid dependency, some of the projects are not of a kind to causedependency when funded by donors.

2.2.8 Recommendations by theInternational Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) through the “Guidelineson Fire Management in Tropical Forests”

Between 1993 and 1997 theInternational Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) developed “Guidelines onFire Management in Tropical Forests” (ITTO 1997). These fire managementguidelines are designed to provide a base for policy makers and managers atvarious levels to develop programs and projects in which the specific national,socio-economic, and natural problems related to fire in tropical natural andplanted forests will be addressed. The scope of the guidelines is to assist theITTO member countries (producer and consumer countries) to develop programs forreducing damage caused by fire; and to help tropical forest managers and ruralresidents to safely use and take advantage of the beneficial effects of fire inland-use systems. The guidelines recognize that many forest fires originate inthe agricultural and pastoral systems; and in degraded vegetation which isoutside of forests. Therefore, fire management on former and degraded forestlands may help to re-establish productive forests and to safeguard the successof reforestation programs.

At present, Indonesia is the firstcountry in which the general ITTO guidelines are “fine-tuned” to thenational level. However, the ITTO guidelines are not exclusively developed forthe ITTO Member Countries or the tropical countries sensu strictu.[3]The guidelines address principles which are also valid outside the ITTO region,especially in the less developed world of the subtropical and temperate zones.Namibia could certainly take advantage of ITTO’s precursor work when formulatinga national fire policy and fire management strategy.

2.3 Conclusions and Recommendations

It is clear that the various fireregimes and fire effects in forestry, wildlife conservancy and land-use ofNamibia will require a set of measures in fire management. The followingconclusions and recommendations require a coordinated national approach leadingto a clear fire policy and its implementation through a series of measureswithin the timeframe of 1998-2001.

Creation of an Inter-Agency RoundTable on Fire Management and Development of a National Fire Policy and FireManagement Guidelines

The various agencies and land ownersto be involved in the implementation of a national fire management program needto agree on clearly defined responsibilities, joint strategies and sharing ofresources. An inter-agency round table should be created as soon as possible.This could be initiated in a workshop, tentatively entitled “Development ofa National Fire Policy and Guidelines on Fire Management in Namibia”.Besides the agencies concerned, this workshop should involve NGOs, women’sgroups, the donor community, international programmes and representatives offire science and related fields.

The proposed objectives of theWorkshop are:

  1. to provide all parties represented in the workshop with comprehensiveinformation on the present status and problems in the field of vegetation firesand fire management in Namibia;

  2. to introduce a framework which can assist to guide and coordinatenational responsibilities and international assistance;

  3. to provide an opportunity for potential international partners to expresstheir interests and ideas with respect to a cooperation in the development of afunctioning Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management System in Namibia and abasic fire science program;

  4.  to define follow-up procedures of this international workshop.


Desirable results andrecommendations of the workshop:

  1. The development of a Long-TermIntegrated Forest Fire Management (IFFM) System for Namibia is recognized asa field of high priority in order to protect natural, socio-economic and humanresources from the detrimental effects of fires.

  2. A basic and most critical task will be to provide the necessary legal andorganizational base within the existing structures (Government administration,private sector) in order to strengthen or to create (where not yet available)the fire management capabilities.

  3. International contributions are essential (a) to secure the introductionof fire management methods adapted to the requirements of local political,social, and ecological conditions in Namibia; (b) to provide the fundingnecessary to build up expertise and infrastructures that will secure the mosttime-efficient build-up of fire management capabilities in the most criticalareas, and (c) to ensure the continuity of research inputs covering the

  4. Both the national (Namibian) and international activities require a highdegree of coordination because of the multi-sectoral approach and the multitudeof international partners being involved.

  5.  In order to ensure the efficient realization of the required activities aNational Fire Management Coordinating Committee needs to be established as afollow-up step.


Proposed terms of reference of aNational Fire Management Coordinating Committee:

  1.  to establish a national platform for the development of a Long-TermIntegrated Fire Management System;

  2. to ensure an intersectoral approach in which all Government authorities,other organizations and the private sector will participate;

  3.  to coordinate international support to the establishment of the firemanagement system in order to avoid duplications of activities and investmentsand to optimize the efficiency of contributions; international partners shall beconsulted for coordinating activities; and

  4.  if required, to develop the legal and organizational structure of apermanent body, e.g. a National Fire Management Council, which will ensure theefficiency and future continuity of this national program.

  5. Meeting Report

The Namibia Round Table on Fire wasconvened in Windhoek, 10-11 November 1999. A broad range of government agenciesand non-government organizations of Namibia, governments of neighbouring SADCcountries and the international forestry and fire science community wasrepresented by ca. 50 participants. In the first part of the Round Table thepresentations of representatives from Namibian, SADC and the internationalcommunity highlighted the background of fir history, the utilization of fire inland-use systems, the current magnitude of fire occurrence as depicted byspaceborne observations, the sustainable role of fire in certain savannawildlands and grazing ecosystems, the detrimental role of wildfires infire-susceptible forests of Namibia and its neighbours countries, and the impactof vegetation fire emissions on the local, regional, and global atmosphere.

After plenary discussion of basicaspects of a national fire policy two breakout working groups were formed in thesecond part of the Round Table. The groups

addressed the most urgent areas ofaction and co-ordination by government agencies and stakeholders. The resultsare summarized in the following.

3.1 Breakout Group 1: GovernmentCo-ordination

The breakout group agreed to proceedas follows:

  1. Identify areas, institutions (current/potential) & stakeholder groupsas “service providers”

  2. Brainstorm activities by priorities

  3. Tie activities to lead agencies

  4.  Identify legal, institutional, policy implications & constraints

  5. Prepare  a time table, distribution of financing among localinstitutions/ foreign donors

Table 1 provides a list of issuesand/or resources to be addressed by a national fire policy and theresponsibilities of government institutions and NGOs to take responsibility orlead in implementing, monitoring or enforcing a national policy.

List of Activities

  1. Collate, analyze existing information on sound fire management practices including references to traditional land management systems.

  2. Initiate, analyze and publicize targeted research to fill gaps (e.g.biodiversity, climate)

  3. Identify perceptions and needs of different service providers andstakeholders

  4. Establish a National Fire Forum

  5. Promulgate a policy including legislative framework for fire management

  6. Design and implement an output oriented national fire monitoring systemwhich serves national as well as international (global) obligations (e.g. CBC,CCD, UNFCC, ISDR Interagency Task Force [IDNDR successor arrangement]).

  7. Develop participatory guidelines for appropriate fire management

  8.   Develop and implement public awareness campaign to serve land users,service providers & general public.

  9.  Identify training needs + opportunities for land users and serviceproviders, and train priority candidates

  10. Establish a locally applicable fire danger rating system

Tab.1.Resources and issues to be addressed by a nationalNamibian Fire Policy

Resource / Issue

Service Provider

(main players in bold)

A. Fodder, Grazing


B. Firewood, Timber

    (Permit and Control)


C. Biological Diversity / Resources


D. Public Health, Pollution, Natural Disasters


E. Environmental Degradation, Resource Depletion

  •  loss of biodiversity

  • soil erosion

  • desertification/bush encroachment

  •   loss of forest cover, no regeneration of forests,

  • other disturbance issues



F. Emissions / Climate Change


G. Disasters / Wildfires


H. Food + Agriculture / Management                      (e.g., use of fire , clearing)    


I. Training, Research, and Monitoring


J. Public Awareness, Public Education, Dissemination of Information



List of Acronyms Used in Table 1


A.Fodder / Grazing

MAWRD: Ministry of Agriculture,Water & Rural Development

MET: Ministry of Environment& Tourism

MLRR: Ministry of Lands,Resettlement & Rehabilitation

MRLGH: Ministry of Regional& Local Government & Housing

NAU: Namibian Agricultural Union

NNFU: Namibian National Farmers’Union


B.Firewood or Timber

DoF: Directorate of Forestry

DRM: Directorate of ResourceManagement

DoT: Directorate of Tourism

NBP: National BiodiversityProgramme

MME: Ministry of Mines &Energy

MTI: Ministry of Trade &Industry

DWA: Department of Water Affairs


C.Biological Diversity / Resources

MBEC (NMN): Ministry of BasicEducation & Culture, National Museum of Namibia

MFMR: Ministry of Fisheries& Marine Resources

MOHSS: Ministry of Health &Social Services

MHA (NamPol): Ministry of HomeAffairs (Namibian Police)

UNAM: University of Namibia PoN:Polytechnic of Namibia

MHEVTST: Ministry of HigherEducation, Vocational Training, Science & Technology

D.Public Health, Pollution, Natural Disasters

MoL: Ministry of Labour


E.Environmental Degradation / Resource Depletion

MBEC: Ministry of BasicEducation & Culture

NPC: National PlanningCommission


F.Emissions / Climate Change

DEA: Directorate ofEnvironmental Affairs

MFA: Ministry of Foreign Affairs


G.Disasters / Wildfires

OPM: Office of the PrimeMinister, Emergency Unit

MoD: Ministry of Defence


H.Food and Agriculture

MAWRD: Ministry of Agriculture,Water & Rural Development

MET: Ministry of Environment& Tourism

NPC: National PlanningCommission


I.Training, Research and Monitoring

MBEC: Ministry of BasicEducation & Culture

UNAM-PoN: University of Namibia- Polytechnic of Namibia

MHEVTST: Ministry of HigherEducation, Vocational Training, Science & Technology

MRLGH: Ministry of Regional& Local Government & Housing


J.Public Awareness

MAWRD: Ministry of Agriculture,Water & Rural Development

MIB: Ministry of Information& Broadcasting

DRFN: Desert Research Foundationof Namibia Rossing: Rossing Foundation

NNF: Namibia Nature Foundation

DAPP: Danish Action People toPeople

IRDNC: Integrated RuralDevelopment & Nature Conservation

NNFC: Northern Namibia ForestryCouncil

NBC: Namibian BroadcastingCorporation


Tab.2.Priority steps for implementation activitieslisted above



Agency /



Instrument and possible source of finance



Now ongoing, inception by 1/2000

Establishment by 11/2000


NFFP Þ GRN 04/2003



1997; Policy in place 11/2000

Legislation by 04/2001






11/2000 key participants informed and analyses completed


NFFP Þ GRN 04/2003



Analysis of gaps 12/2000

Research, analysis, literature; ongoing

NFFP/GRN + donor sources 04/2001

NFF to seek financing through donors, GRN and levies







1999 ongoing


Fire Danger Rating System by 12/2001

NFFP + GRN 04/2001


NFFP + GRN 04/2001




DoF +


DoF +


1999 ongoing


Now Þ  12/2000

NFFP + GRN 04/2001






Current and ongoing

Handing over to NFF by 11/2000



by 11/2000




Training needs assessed for fire ecology and fire management by 06/2000



by 11/2000


3.2 Breakout Group 2: StakeholderCo-ordination

The Development of an intersectoralfire management programme for Namibia requires a high degree of co-ordinationefforts between the different sectors of the society represented by governmentagencies (see Breakout Group 1), non-government institutions and interest groups,and stakeholders to be involved.

The group discussed the state offire knowledge, technology transfer, institutional capacities in fire managementin Namibia.

3.2.1. Current Status Of FireManagement In Namibia Information

  • Etosha burning guidelines and regulations fornature conservation are based on long-term ecological research and fulfil therequirements of advanced ecosystem and fire management

  • No guidelines are available for commercialfarming areas

  • Guidelines are available for communal areas inthe Forest Act but are currently not applied because the Act does not conformwith present socio-cultural conditions

  • Guidelines in the new Forest Act include all sectors

Lack of burning policy. Such a policy is neededfor the prescription of fire or fire regimes in accordance with the need forburning in various land-use systems and wildlands, e.g. burning moribund grasses,control of bush encroachment, stimulation of forest regeneration, etc.


Elements to be considered inburning:

  1. reasons for burning

  2. appropriate fire regimes

  • type of fire

  • intensity of fire

  • season of burning

  • frequency of burning

  • manpower & equipment

  1. management after burning

  2. assessment of traditional burning practices

  3. impacts on biodiversity

  4. fire information systems


Stakeholders to be involved inpolicy development:

  1. Ministry of Agriculture, Water & Rural Development

  • Research division

  • Extension division

  • Veterinary services

  1. Ministry of Environment and Tourism

  • DoF, DEA, DRM


  1. Ministry of Regional, Local Government and Housing

  • Regional governor’s offices

  • Established procedures exist for fire safetybut prescriptions lacking

  • Availability of free satellite informationaccess (NOAA/AVHRR) from Harare, Zimbabwe

  • Problems; lack of techniques to assess andmonitor fire effects 

  • Legislation governing the use of fire

  • Lack of quantitative data on fire effects

  • Accessibility of unpublished data on firemanagement and effects  Communication

  • Lack of communication channels of relevantinformation to all stakeholders (electronic system).

  • High level endorsement at ministerial level isrequired to build up a communication network  National responsibilities

National responsibilities need to bedefined to guide, co-ordinate and implement a broad range of tasks within anationally harmonized fire management strategy. The

  1. Coordination

  • who is responsible for overall national co-ordination

  1. Who is responsibl

  • for policy

  • for training

  • for liaison

  • for sensitization

  • for extension

  • for fire management burning policy

  • for extinguishing fire


The key stakeholder to be involvedin sharing responsibilities are:

  • Commercial farmers (commercial farming areas)

  • Community leaders/tribal-traditionalauthorities(communal lands)

  • Private landowners (municipalities)

  • Service providers (national parks)

  • Fire brigades (urban areas)

  • Tourism sector

  • Relevant research institutions

  • Educational institutions

  • Relevant NGOs  Research and Training

Research and training must addressthe most urgent and immediate needs of the country. It has been recognized thatthe wealth of fundamental knowledge in fire science as well as existingtechnologies and procedures in fire management must be transferred to the userlevel. The focus should be on:

  • Problem-oriented research

  • Research on developing techniques for assessingand monitoring fire effects by field based remote sensing

  • Intergrative sectoral research

  • Training i.a.w. the needs to be defined

  •  Capacity building of existing staff

  • Practical training courses in fire management

  • Exchange of extensionists in SADC

  • Co-ordination of syllabi on fire management atnational training institutions

  • Public awareness campaign

  • Exploring funding possibilities within GRN& donors  International co-operation

The transboundary fire issuesaffecting Namibia and its neighbours require a strong co-operation with theneighbouring countries, the SADC community and international partners. Mainemphasis should be given on:

  • Transboundary meeting to involve allstakeholders

  • Reactivation of the SADC protocol on firemanagement, 1996

  • SADC and bilateral agreements

  • Magnitude of crossboundary fires

  • Magnitude of crossboundary air pollution

  • Procedures for containing cross-border fires

  • SAFARI 2000 research

  • Connect Namibia with international fireinformation network via the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)

  • Organization of workshops with internationalinputs

  •  Identification of best fire managementpractices within the region  Finance

  • For financing institution and capacity buildingand implementation of a national fire management policy commitments are requiredby the government of Namibia and the international community. Priority must be given to

  • work towards economic independence at alllevels to create sustainable funding

International funding sources needto be explored through:

  • Donors, e.g. IUCN, WWF, GEF, GFMC, FAO, EU

  • NGOs

  •  Business enterprises (PPP – Public-PrivatePartnerships)

  •  Exploit opportunities such as E.I.F.

  • Seek partners for carbon trade  Evaluation and Feedback

An efficient monitoring andevaluating capacity must be built in Namibi. It is recommended that the NationalFire Forum should:

  • Monitor and review/evaluate fire managementProgrammes

  • Establish systems/channels for monitoring andevaluation of fire management activities including bush encroachment, climatechange, employment generation through the control of e.g. transboundary fires.


4. Conclusions and Recommendations

The national Namibian Round Table onFire was an important kick-off event to initiate a national fire managementstrategy and programme in which all sectors of the society concerned willactively participate.

From the very beginning the RoundTable was not designed to elaborate the details of a national fire programme.The report, which includes the recommendations arising from the breakout groupsand the Round Table plenary, represent the opinions and visions of the mostimportant government and non-government institutions and stakeholders.

It is now most urgent to follow upthe recommendations by priority. Highest ranking priority is the establishmentof a national fire forum which will provide the continuation of the spirit of aRound Table in which all stakeholders will jointly share responsibility.



In this list only the quotedliterature sources are provided. For more background information: see thereports by Goldammer (1998) and Trollope and Trollope (1999).

Goldammer, J. G.1998. Development of a National Fire Policy andGuidelines on Fire Management in Namibia. Namibia-Finland Forestry Programme,Directorate of Forestry, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Windhoek. RevisedDraft (18 October 1998).

Kromhout, C. 1999. ProposedCooperative Fire Management in the SADC Countries of Southern Africa. Int.Forest Fire News No. 21, 22-24.

International Tropical TimberOrganization (ITTO). 1997. ITTO Guidelines on Fire Management in TropicalForests. ITTO Policy Development Series No.6. ITTO,Yokohama, 40 p.

Swap, R. 1999. The Southern AfricanRegional Science Initiative ‑ SAFARI 2000. Int. Forest Fire News No. 21,28-34.

Trollope W. S. W., and L. A.Trollope. 1999. Technical review of the Integrated Forest Fire Managementcomponent of the Namibia-Finland Forestry Programme in the East Caprivi Regionof Namibia. Windhoek – Fort Hare, August 1999.

This report has been prepared in theframe of the Namibia-Finland Forestry Programme, Directorate of Forestry,Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Windhoek, Namibia (December 1999) by


Johann G. Goldammer

Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)
Max Planck Institute for Chemistry,Biogeochemistry Department
c/oFreiburg University, PO Box
79100 Freiburg




Theostrich in Namibia’s fire prevention logo represents a species that isendangered by excessive wildfires


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