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)


4.1                Economic implications

Principles on the Damage and Loss of Various Environmental Components

Forests damaged by wild fires will not be able to provide a large number of forest products that are vital to the life of the nation. This is a significant loss in terms of production potentials of the forest. It is estimated that the value of this annual loss amounts to N$ 133 million in East Caprivi. Forest fires also have a negative impact on other environmental components such as: Soil, water resources and air quality. It also affects the regularity of rain falls locally. In the rainy season 1999-2000 East Caprivi received an almost even 700 mm of rainfall over the entire area unlike during the preceding periods of 1996-98 when the variation was from 150 – 800 mm.


Develop guidelines to estimate the potential direct loss of the national economy due to forest fire. This estimate will assist in helping other parties to understand that programmed fire management cost is substantially less than the losses suffered when fires occur. The required steps for this estimation are:

  1. Study and record the impacts of fire; both direct and indirect
  2. Formulate methodology for estimating financial losses
  3. Determine losses to local communities and the nation at large(micro-macro)

Principles on Cost-Effectiveness of Fire Prevention and Suppression

Anthropogenic fires (human induced) started around rural communities are the main causes of fire. Rural residents often do not understand the value and function of the forest bio-system and they use fire without prepared control measures or advance planning thereby allowing fires to escape.


  1. Introduce and develop permanent agricultural systems, agro-forestry, agrosilvo-pastoral and fruit tree orchards as alternative solutions to shifting cultivation. Establish demonstration plots to show the above methodologies emphasizing proper fire management practices and measures.
  2. Develop an incentive system to reward communities or other NGOs that apply appropriate land use practices that prevent escaped or accidental fires or reduce fire caused damages to the forest.
  3. Introduce and establish a program for environmental community awareness. Any programs like e.g. the Ostrich (Namibia’s national Forest Fire Logo), Fire Drama Play, The Fire Video, The Fire Story, The Fire Cartoon, Fire Posters, Fire Billboards and the Fire Plays on NBC Radio must be appropriate to the social, cultural and economic background of the local  communities. They must emphasize the function of the forest as “lungs” in the circulation of water in the environment as well as the negative effects of burning the savanna forest too frequently.
  4. Utilize research findings of grass survey in relation to prescribed burning in formulating basis for the Model for Integrated Forest Fire Management in northern Namibia. This model will also suggest methodologies for fire prevention activities in training and educating the people.
  5. Develop and implement agricultural practices for nutrient cycling so that biomass is utilized optimally to enhance soil fertility and avoid wind erosion. By burning off the accumulated humus layer through annual non-prescribed fires, the wind will blow away the topsoil.
  6. Establish demonstration plots showing prescribed burning techniques and results for both genders and for both cattle owners and the rural poor.

4.2 Using Experiences Found in Local Communities for Carrying Out Prescribed Burning According to Plan

Principles on conflicts in land utilization among communities inside and outside forest areas

Conflicts in land use rights among local communities can lead to arson and wildfires. All surrounding communities must get direct benefits from the forests in order to have any incentive to protect the forest. Local communities use fire for economic, agricultural, recreational or cultural interests; and these practices will continue in the future. Some of these experiences may be useful for a wider area, and may be incorporated in the Model for Integrated Forest Fire Management.


  1. Arrange for consultations with local communities to resolve the conflicts on utilization of forest land in order to protect the area from wild fire.
  2. Train local communities in fire prevention, suppression and prescribed burning techniques so that they are capable in suppressing fire which escape from their planned burnings.
  3. The local Forestry District Office will supply appropriate forest fire tools to local communities that manage their fires.
  4. Eventually their new skills and motivation and will lead to the establishment of a voluntary fire group in each community.
  5. Involve local government and traditional leaders in determining methods of controlling fires in their area. The communities may also need financial assistance in controlling fires on land which belongs to the Government.
  6. Develop exchange of information and experience concerning fire management within the Namibian Regions as well as among neighbouring SADC countries. This exchange may be assisted by international organizations such as the Global Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC) or alike, NGOs or governments within the SADC.

Principles on the role of Communities around the forest, Traditional Authorities, NGOs and Women Groups in the Management of forest fires

Communities around or within forest areas, Traditional Authorities, NGOs and Women Groups play an important role in fire management. Women often play an big role in agriculture by raising livestock, collecting fuelwood and gathering of non-timber forest products. The women also carry out most of the burning for clearing agricultural lands for shifting cultivation or burning for cultivation of next crop.
Women are often more appreciative and caring for the natural environment, although it is often difficult to involve them in the educational or extension programs due to cultural constraints. Their active participation in forest fire management is crucial in trying to protect the forest resources from wild fires.
Besides this, all family members can actively be involved in the control of fires.


  • Develop active participation of communities in forest areas and adjacent grass covered tracts. Provide training in the safe and controlled use of fire in rural activities.
  • Develop an effective education program for women on fire utilization and suppression skills at both national (Women Affairs) and local levels.
  • Develop national Gender Policy and Guidelines from the perspective of fire and burning
  • Control wildlife and protect biodiversity by developing a network of permanent fuel breaks and by providing training in prescribed burning.

Country Notes
IFFN No. 25

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