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)


Principles of Institutional Development and Strengthening

Forest resources play an important role and have a long-term strategic value for national development. The forest is important and valuable because of its inherent character as a renewable natural resource. In order for the forest resources to be sustainable and protected from disruptive elements, including forest fires, the management of the forestry sector is the responsibility of the Government. To insure proper and appropriate sustainable use of the forests of Namibia, a strong national organization, the Directorate of Forestry, was established.
In order for the policies concerning the protection of forests from fire to be implemented optimally, all the people must support the protection effort. This includes governmental and non-governmental institutions at all levels and specifically local communities whose lifestyles are closely related to the sustainable management of forests.
To cover adequately the issues regarding forest fires in commercial farms of the country, legislation need to be in place regarding the establishment, registration, duties and functioning of Fire Protection Associations. These associations must deal with all aspects of veld fire prevention, detection and suppression. This chapter also has to deal with the appointment and duties of each association’s Fire Chief.
The development and strengthening of institutions involved in the protection of forests from fire, need to be given high priority. This is particularly true at regional and district levels. This development and strengthening is directed towards the creation of good coordination between units within the Directorate of Forestry (D.o.F.) and the various stakeholder groups. This requires the availability of adequate quality and quantity of human resources, the provision of appropriate forest fire management equipment and availability of financial resources. It is extremely important that these financial resources be used in the most effective and efficient manner i.e. by involving local communities in fire management.


  1. Strengthen the organization of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and its Directorate of Forestry and line directorates so that they are capable of executing their duties and responsibilities, particularly in formulation and implementing existing forest fire management policies and directives. Even though the protection of forests from fire may be assigned to one D.o.F.’s forest fire sections, all persons in other units within the forestry organization as well as other Government agencies must at times assist in this protection effort. Information, additional support and staff may need to be provided to the fire staff in the event of a particularly severe fire season.
  2. To establish and register Fire Protection Associations throughout the commercial farm areas of the country including new settlement farms.
  3. To define the duties and functions of these associations.
  4.  To assign Fire Chiefs for each association including the definition of their duties.
  5.  Strengthen the existing land and forest fire control institutions at national, regional and district level. Improve the structure, duties, functions, responsibilities and authority of the organization.
  6. Establish an Inter-Sectoral National Coordination Task Force (National Fire Forum) on Forest Fires with direct link to the national disaster coordination unit under the Prime Minister’s Office. In order to be effective and efficient, especially on funding, the minister who is responsible for the protection of Forest will allocate the funding.
  7. Forest Fire Management unit of D.o.F. coordinates this National Fire Forum. This National Fire Forum should have well defined duties, functions, responsibilities and authorities.
  8. Strengthening of urban fire brigades under the Ministry of Regional, Local Government and Housing. Larger urban centres require a full time or part time properly trained Fire Chief.
  9. Upgrade present fire and other equipment of Fire Brigades so that they may meet the demands of modern rescue activities.
  10. Encourage the establishment of regional and Traditional Authorities and district level (Khuta) institutions under the supervision of the National Fire Forum. The D.o.F districts which have established forest fire control sections need to strengthen their organization. The responsible person (fire chief) of the organization is also the “fire head” of the Region. Additionally Forest Fire Committees need to be established locally in communal areas.
  11. Formulate regulations containing clearly defined tasks and responsibilities of inter-regional Fire Forum and other stakeholders in fire protection.

Principles governing an Institutional Framework

Forest fire management involves all parties concerned with general land use; national forests, game reserves, community forests, forests on communal lands and private farms, conservancies and forest plantations. It is therefore necessary to establish an institutional framework to ensure the implementation of national policy on inter-sectoral forest fire management and to coordinate the activities at both national and regional/district level.


  1. Formulate and implement the duties of all levels of the fire management organization which includes the following:

    • Prevention
    • Pre-suppression
    • Prescribed burning
    • Post-fire (fuel reduction, fuel breaks, evaluation and measurements with disc stamp meter)
    • Establish contacts with Traditional Authorities (Khutas) and Indunas
    • Forest fire extension and educational campaign
    • Implementation of fire management guidelines
  2.  Build and strengthen the governmental infrastructure to establish the capability to control fire at Regional and district level. Establish and strengthen inter-sectoral fire organization at regional and district levels.
  3. Develop and strengthen an appropriate mechanism and structure for organizations at national, regional and district so that forest fire organizations, including voluntary fire brigades, at sub-station and local community level can be established.
  4. Develop operational plans that establish the role of volunteer organizations, especially of NGOs and women groups. Prepare and execute training plans for upgrading their capabilities and readiness.
  5. Preparation of cooperative fire agreements with rural communities, NGOs, other related stakeholders by forest fire management institutions at national, regional and district levels.
  6. Dissemination of information regarding forest and land fire management to all national institutions and local communities through mass media like NBC etc. By carrying out this activity, citizens rural farmers and the general public will better understand their role in environmental protection and recognize their capabilities to work hand-in-hand with the Directorate of Forestry in fire prevention and suppression activities. Dissemination of fire information also to international community will be evidence that Namibia is seriously dealing with the forest fire problem.
  7. Provide human resources and necessary hardware, including implementation plans for national, regional and district levels.
  8. Develop cooperation with communities through social organizations, traditional authorities, youth organizations, cultural organizations, schools, spiritual organizations and NGOs. Involve these organizations in every stage of forest fire management activities. Education and training of the members of these organizations, in integrated forest fire management, should be given high priority.

3.1 Sub-Regional (SADC) and International Cooperation

Principles regarding Forest Fire Effects to Neighbouring Countries

Forest fires that are crossing international borders as well as smoke pollution, needs to be minimized. These incidents are not only damaging and polluting neighboring countries, but they are also giving an impression about negligence and incompetence in controlling fires.
It is pointed out in the Health Guidelines for Vegetation fire Events (WHO/UNEP/WMO) that: with respect to smoke plumes from biomass burning and corresponding health effects, particles receive the most attention of all air pollutants that have potentially detrimental health effects. Very small airborne particles (aerodynamic diameters below 2.5 μm) are considered the most significant pollutants. These particles have very high probability of deposition in deeper parts of the human respiratory tract, where they may lead to a range of health impacts by virtue of their physical, chemical toxicological or carcinogenic nature.
Exposure to smoke plumes from biomass burning has a bearing on contracting Tuberculosis which again, may form a part of the HIV/AIDS cycle. Regardless of the origin of the smoke, people living in communal lands in northern Namibia are the most susceptible to smoke pollution.


  1. Develop the involvement of local communities or border patrols to contain fires within Namibia’s land area.
  2. Develop fire using technologies that produces minimal smoke problems.
  3. Increase information and knowledge exchange concerning forest fire management among the SADC governments. A special task force on control of wild fires should be established.
  4. Encourage cooperation between NGOs and other institutions among SADC especially in public education and fire research and the development of culturally and economically viable integrated fire techniques and management options.
  5. Support cooperation in forest and land fire programs that allow possible utilization of aid resources (manpower/funding) from neighbouring countries if required for fire emergencies and cross-border activities.

Principles governing International Cooperation

To support most effective and efficient forest fire management capabilities, there is a need to master knowledge and technology in various fields, that are directly or indirectly related to forest fires and fire ecology. This can be achieved through international cooperation agreements.


  1. Develop and increase bilateral and multilateral cooperation with developed where fire management has reached an internationally recognized standard. This will enhance the availability of professional skills and knowledge in all aspects of forest fire when required.
  2. Increase technical and financial cooperation with other countries to assist in funding of e.g. research into the advancement of forest fire management programs in Namibia. This must be followed up by internal support from the Namibian government in providing adequate counter (part) budget funding which generally is the requirement in these forms of cooperation.
  3. Increase exchange of information quickly and continuously on regional and global weather and climatic conditions by becoming a member of world organizations that have direct mandate to deal with forest fires. This includes organizations such as the Climate Change Convention, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) the Joint FAO/ECE/ILO Committee on Forest Technology, Management and Training and its Team of Specialists on Forest Fire. This will allow early preparation to anticipate severe changes in weather or climate, that may increase the risk of forest fires.
  4. During 1999 UN through (WHO/UNEP/WMO) prepared Health Guidelines for Vegetation Fire Events-added with a Teachers Guide.These Guidelines applied to Namibian conditions outline e.g. : To provide the necessary evidence and guidance on vegetation fires and their health impacts, to strengthen the basis for inter-sector action in sustainable development policy and planning.
    The message of these Guidelines should be disseminated by relevant ministries as well as by D.O.F:s fire management personnel. Assistance for dissemination of these Guidelines can be obtained from the UN.
  5. Increased participation in scientific meetings, seminars workshops, conferences and other fora that have direct or indirect involvement in forest fire management.

3.2 Funding and Implementation

Principles for the Source of Funding

Protecting the forest from fire can only be achieved when adequate funds are made available for efficient and effective activities. Forest and grass fires burn an area of 3-6 million hectares each year in Namibia. Besides enormous direct losses, valued at a billion dollars per year, the forest fires also cause losses in environmental quality, human and animal health and degradation of the ecosystems. Considering these factors, the required monetary input for an efficient management of forest fires would be far less than the financial losses from forest fires.
Funding of forest fire management activities may be obtained from both governmental and non-governmental sources. Funding for forest fire management must be available on time and on target.
For the financing the activities of a fire service or Fire Unit, a special Fire Service Fund may be established. The initial funding could come from the National Emergency Management Council (NEMU) through the Regional Emergency Committee (REC) down to constituency and community level. In commercial farming areas the funding should go to the Fire Protection Associations.
The private Forest Protection Associations also need external funding specifically for the development of appropriate suppression techniques and for the training in efficient tactics to be used in various climate conditions. Research into these activities (e.g. bush encroachment) also needs external funding.


  1. Provide special budget for forest fire management activities at both national and provincial/district levels, so that they may perform optimally. This budget should not be a joint budget of several departments, that are involved in fire control.
  2. Provide a special fund for fire prevention activities at every forest office at field level.
  3. Provide and on-call budget for emergency fire activities.
  4. Support cooperation among local communities, private sector, NGOs, CACA and mass media to voluntarily and actively participate in prevention and suppression of forest fires. This voluntary participation indirectly creates an immediate-use-funding source.
  5. Support funding in form of non-binding grants through cooperation with other countries, regional and international institutions to increase capability in forest fire prevention and suppression.
  6. Develop aid programs from donor countries for the protection of forests from fire. This aid is available in the form of expertise, technology transfer and assistance in education and training of national staff, research and development of forest fire management.
  7. Organize cooperation with United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in implementing program Agenda 21 for forestry. Emphasize forest fire aspects for international promotion of protecting the world’s forests from fire. Utilize and provide information to the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC). Donor countries and institutions that may provide funding need to receive a proposal from Namibia describing the impact of forest fire in the forests of Namibia and how funds could alleviate this problem

Principles on Implementation:

In order to be able to empower both traditional authorities and their bodies, as well as the new Fire Protection associations, up-to-date legislation is urgently required. Fire activities in communal areas is well covered by the forthcoming Forest Bill. However, fire activities in commercial farms will urgently require a separate Forest & Veld Fire Act since the forthcoming Forest Bill does e.g. not recognize the establishment of Fire Protection Associations or give guidance in the functions of Fire Chiefs.
Fire Brigade Services Ordinance, 1978 (FBSO) 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.
Section 7. (1) further: The Fire Chief may do anything, and take any measure which in his opinion is necessary under the circumstances do the following:

  • close any street or road temporarily
  • enter, or break into and enter, any premises, and take temporarily possession thereof
  • damage, destroy, demolish or remove any property
  • forcibly remove, or cause to be removed, any person;
    1. from any property or
    2. from the scene where the Fire Unit is operating, if such person interferes with the work of the Fire Unit at that place, or is in obstruction or hindrance
  •  size, or make use of any material from any available source, whether such material is owned or controlled by the local authorities.
  • any member of the Namibian police shall assist any Chief Fire Officer or Fire Chief in execution of his duties.

Section 7. (2) b. A Fire Chief or member of the Fire Unit shall not be liable for any loss or damage as  a result of bodily injury, loss of life or loss of or damage to property which is caused by performing duties as outlined in this Ordinance.

Duties of a fire brigade service or local Fire Unit:

  • preventing and extinguishing fires, and the preservation of life and property
  • to monitor and act upon the growth or accumulation on any land or premises of trees, bushes weeds, grass or other matter in such manner as is likely to promote the kindling or spread of bonfires or large veld fires.
  •  to monitor the burning of rubbish, trees, bushes weeds or grass and the making of bonfires.
  • in communal areas the work of the local Fire Unit would also include the advising of local people in prescribed burning.
  • the National Gender Policy and its Plan of Action: Chapter 8. Gender and Management of the Environment further: Take steps to protect women against harm from environmental hazards at home and at work. This includes the teaching of rural women in how to use fire safely for land clearing activities without getting harmed by the activities.


  1. To process and finalize the new Forest Bill.
  2. To start developing a Forest and Veld Fire act for Namibia.
  3. Each Regional Emergency Committee should start the preparation of Regional Forest Fire Management plans.
  4.   Each Constituency Emergency Committee should start preparing a Forest Fire Management plan for their constituency.
  5. Each Emergency Operational Unit (in local communities) should start preparing a Forest Fire Management Plan for their area. This includes the construction of e.g. water dams, cutlines and storing facilities for fire tools.
  6. To establish mobile forest fire extension units for the education of rural people and farmers in suppression and management of fires.

Country Notes
IFFN No. 25

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