National guidelines on Forest Fire Management in Namibia

National Guidelines on Forest Fire Management in Namibia
Final Draft 31 March/2001

(IFFN No. 25 – July 2001)


1.1 National Policy

Principles of Forest Utilization

Namibian forests are considered a natural gift from God. They are there for the benefit and use of the Namibian nation and its recreational values are to be enjoyed by the rest of the world.

Namibian forests form a part of the basic capital in the nation building process. They need to be used wisely and sustainable for the prosperity of all nationals, commercial farmers, municipalities and local communities both now and in the future, and in accordance with established national forestry criteria specified by the indicators for sustainable forest management in Namibia.


a) Strengthen the coordination between all government sectors and other stakeholders using forests and land resources so that the utilization actions are based upon sustainable use of the environment.
b) Motivate and encourage all citizens in both government, private sectors and local communities to consciously and voluntarily protect the forest resources from disturbances that can decrease the sustainable functions and benefits of a well-managed and protected forest.
c) Encourage private sector, local communities and government agencies involved in forest utilization to carry out their activities in a way that secures prosperity to the region.

Principles of Forest Protection

Issue guidelines that sees to it that forestry development continues to be upgraded in a way that ensures the availability of forest products. This will aid the development of industries, work sectors, business opportunities, national income and regional development. The national forests are to maintain their functions in the ecosystem; benefiting hydrology, gene pool, soil fertility and climate. Forest protection is meant to secure the sustainability of forests at the same time maintaining the continuity of forest development.

Forest protection includes all efforts, initiatives and measures to prevent and limit the damage to forests and forest products. Humans, livestock, fire, wild life, natural disaster pest and disease can cause forest destruction. This is also reflected in the National Disaster Plan of Namibia.

Forest protection also includes the preservation of ancestral and communal rights to a forest area or rights to utilize the products in the forest. These principles are also included in the Traditional Authorities Act of 1995 wherein Point 10 outlines the following: Functions, duties and powers of Traditional Authorities (Sub-section 10.2: In addition to the functions specified in subsection (1), the members of a traditional authority shall have the following duties, namely:


In accordance with the Traditional Authorities Act of 1995 the members of a traditional authority shall have the following duties, namely:

  1. to assist the police and other law enforcement agencies in the prevention of crime and apprehension of offenders within their jurisdiction.
  2. to assist and cooperate with the organs of the central, regional and local government in the execution of their policies by keeping the members of traditional community informed of developmental projects in their area
  3. to ensure that the members of their traditional community use the natural resources at their disposal on a sustainable basis and in a manner that conserves the environment and maintains the ecosystem, for the benefit of all persons in Namibia.


  1. Encourage regional forestry institutions, government agencies, concession holders and local communities to take all possible measures in limiting the damages to the forest and the forest products.
  2. Ensure that stakeholders at all levels understand the functions and benefits of the forest. This will encourage cross-sectoral support in the protection and prevention of damaging wild fires.
  3. Create a functional regional/district level fire control system that is supported by; facilities, human resources and adequate funding.
  4. Encourage the formation of Fire Protection Associations among commercial farms. This provision also covers new settlement farms in commercial farming areas.
  5.   Develop regulations and guidelines on land clearing by the use of fire or by other means

Principles on Protection Priorities

The priorities in forest protection should include specific areas of International, national or local priorities. This would include flora and fauna, religiously or culturally important forests, conservancies or community forests. Therefore the protection of these forests from fire should be given highest priority. This does not exclude forest areas of Production Forest from the priority list.


  1. Develop a master plan on the protection of forests from fire for each conservation area.
  2. Motivate local communities to develop a fire management plan for their area.
  3. Establish regulations on the use of fire within each specific area including bush encroached areas where fire is used as a tool to eradicate the bush. These well intended activities may however lead to desertification and loss of biodiversity.

Principles for Community Participation in Forest Protection

Besides the national government, traditional authorities, commercial farmers and local communities are also responsible for the implementation of forest protection policies to maintain and manage the environment, to prevent and overcome damages, reduce air pollution, wind and water erosion as well as to sustain natural resources.

When it comes to Declared National Parks the principles of Community Involvement in Park Management (CBRM) should be applied to any fire situation in or around the Park. The local communities involved in forest fire management should be paid out of the Game Product Trust Fund.


  1. To inform and educate the rural population, commercial farm communities and the general public in the role of forests and its contribution to the national economy. Numerous are still the people who see the forest as merely a source of income for timber and non-wood forest products. This short term exploitation goal has led to drastic damage and denudation of forests to the point that the existence and quality of forest resources have declined greatly.
  2. To inform and educate the public about adverse environmental and economic effects of bush encroachment on commercial farming communities.
  3. Encourage the formation of Fire Protection Associations in commercial farming areas and Fire Committees in communal areas.
  4. Encourage NGOs, CBOs and private initiatives regarding forest extension and law abiding activities.
  5. Encourage civic organizations, religious organizations, women groups, listener-reader-viewer groups, conservation groups, handicraft producers, local artists and environmental organizations to upgrade their understanding and appreciation of forests through their participation in regular activities and exchange of information.
  6. Enhance the role of civic organizations in motivating community participation in forest protection activities including fire prevention and suppression.

Principles on the Success of Policy Implementation

The protection of forests from fire can succeed if the local communities, commercial farming communities and all levels of government agencies understand the problem. They have to appreciate the complexity of the issue to be able to implement all policies of forest protection from fire based on fire management legislation and technical provisions.

The Directorate of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and NGOs should be involved in establishing Fire Protection Associations in commercial farming communities and in addition to provide appropriate training to commercial farming communities. In communal areas the government and traditional authorities have been implementing forest fire management in selected communities since May. 1996.

In order to achieve a more successful implementation, following steps have already been taken:

  1.  The Caprivi Forest Fire Control Project was initiated in March 1996
  2.  Namibia Forestry Strategic Plan was developed in May 1996.
  3.  Fire Drama Play developed together with Caprivi Drama Group, July 1996.
  4. Regional Meeting on the Draft Forest Bill, August 1996.
  5. Evaluation carried out on the Community Based Fire Control Approach, August 1997.
  6. First Draft of Forest Fire Policy and Guidelines developed, March 1998
  7. Fire Control was incorporated in the new Namibia-Finland Forestry Programme July 1998.
  8.  Material collected for National Guidelines/Caprivi Fire Management Plan, August 1998.
  9. 50 schools and 25.000 people covered by fire education November 1998.
  10.  Second meeting in Caprivi Governor’s Office, August 1998.
  11. Project renamed: Integrated Forest Fire Management (IFFM) September, 1998
  12. Mid-Term Review of IFFM  carried out, report produced, December, 1998.
  13. Investigation of Attitudes to Forest Fires carried out (MSc. Thesis), December, 1998.
  14. Gender assessment on IFFM carried out, Report Produced, April, 1999.
  15. Socio-Cultural assessment of IFFM carried out, Report produced, August 1999.
  16. Technical/environmental assessment of IFFM carried out, Report produced, August 1999.
  17.  Third meeting in Caprivi Governor’s Office, August 1999.
  18. National/International Round Table Meeting organized; October 1999.
  19. Second Draft of National Forest Fire Policy and Guidelines produced, December 1999.
  20. Handing over of 10,000 copies of Fire Story and Cartoon handed over to Ministry of Basic Education, Sports and Culture (MBESC) , National Television and radio broadcast, January 2000.
  21. 100 schools and 40,000 people covered by fire education, February 2000.
  22. Workshop on National Criteria and Indicators for forestry, February 2000.
  23. Youth Fire Drama Festival; National television and radio broadcast, March 2000.
  24. Survey on grass biomass (and its implications on burning) in eastern Caprivi, July, 2000.
  25. Five training courses carried out for 15 farmers associations in commercial farms, September, 2000.
  26.  First Meeting on the establishment of a proposed National Fire Forum, October 2000.
  27.  Third Draft of National Guidelines on FFM handed over to the Regional Governor, December, 2000.
  28. Fourth Draft of Caprivi Forest Fire Management Plan prepared, December 2000.
  29. Fifth Draft of National Guidelines handed over to the Regional Governor, February, 2001.
  30. Second meeting for Namibia National (Forest) Fire Forum convened, February 2000.
  31. Caprivi Forest Fire Management Plan Drafted. March, 2001.
  32. Final Draft of National Guidelines on FFM distributed, March 2001.


  1. Synchronize understanding of forest protection policy on fire with other governmental land use policies through intensive communication via; formal correspondence, meetings, seminars and workshops.
  2. Formulate an integral forest and land management policy including forest and land fire aspects. The fire elements must be balanced with other elements and must be acceptable to all involved parties. The formulated policy should be easily understood, it should be accepted by all parties and all stakeholders should be able to implement it.

1.2 Legislation

Principles Governing Fire Law Enforcement

The Namibian Constitution and other Laws are the tools for the government to govern the country. Thus all actions of the state apparatus are based on laws, including those actions carried out to protect forests from wildfire.

Advance coordination between forestry and other institutions is required prior to implementing forest fire rules and regulations.

In order to establish a comprehensive forest protection system that includes items of varying importance, numerous legislative acts have to be enacted. Given that forest and land fire problems are very complex and that they continue to change over time, there is a need to stabilize, simplify and re-dress this legislation into technical instructions that are more practical to apply in the field.

These acts must be widely publicized so that all stakeholder levels, government agencies, commercial farmers and local communities can understand, accept and implement them correctly.

Fire Brigade Services Ordinance, 1978 states further: Emergency means any situation requiring immediate action to prevent death or injury to persons or damage to property, but not declared state of emergency in terms of any law.

Any local authority maintaining a fire brigade service or a community fire unit; shall appoint a Chief Fire Officer or Fire Chief.
There is a need to strengthen the IFFM resources within the D.oF. by establishing a special fire task force at headquarter level. This taskforce will establish links with: NDF, NamPol, Agriculture, NamPower, Works/Roads and NamRail on fire prevention activities.
This task force will also co-ordinate the activities evolving around the formation of a National Fire Forum.
Additionally one member should be specialized in the education (forest extension) of schools and local communities and commercial farms.


  1. Study the existing laws and formulate a new Forest Bill and Traditional Authorities Act to accommodate the increasing fire protection problems caused by socio-cultural changes, particularly technical and organizational aspects. These new guidelines and approaches will then form the framework for annual work plans for integrated forest fire management.
  2. Encourage all government levels, private sectors and traditional authorities network to develop standard fire management procedures that are suited to the local socio-cultural set-up as well as to the technical skills of the people in the target community. Keep Chief Forester and Head Office levels informed about intended recommendations and activities in the field.
  3. Publicize the regulations and legislation on the protection of forests from fire to enhance awareness. Use formal and informal education processes to disseminate information through various governmental and mass media channels, communication forum, correspondence, seminars, workshops etc.
  4.   Enhance law enforcement efforts through cooperation and coordination between enforcement personnel and related institutions e.g. NDF, Police, Veterinary, Water supply and Customs and Immigration in the case of transboundary activities.
  5. Analyze how and to what extent the ITTO Guidelines on Fire Management in Tropical Forests are applicable to Namibia. Apply these special provisions to Namibian conditions.
  6. Adopt and apply relevant components of the Global Action Plan on Peatlands through the Ramsar Convention, the Kyoto Protocol of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and other relevant mechanisms.

Country Notes
IFFN No. 25

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