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)



Education includes formal, non-formal (training and extension) and informal education.

5.1 Training and Extension

Principles on the Training of Forestry and Government Officials, Workers and other staff

Every government and non-government official (e.g. in Conservancies and Community forests, National Parks) responsible for forest and land management activities at any level, need to acquire and develop knowledge in forest fire management.
Every forestry staff and worker, and in particular staff who are assigned to forest protection duties, should acquire skills in forest fire management.
Every official, manager, worker and staff member in forestry whose duties cover forest fire management activities, must acquire the skills required in successful forest fire prevention and suppression work.
There is a need to strengthen the IFFM resources within the D.o.F. 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.
Additionally one member should be specialized in the education (forest extension) of schools and local communities and commercial farms.


  1. Identify the number of persons within D.o.F. who are dealing with Integrated Forest fire Management (IFFM) and assess their training needs.
  2. Identify information needs and training requirements for the forestry staff. Training may be provided by dissemination of library material, conducting seminars, workshops, short courses; it
    lso includes study tours on site to look at the forest fire management principles and their application locally
  3. Prepare an IFFM training plan for officials, managers, workers and other staff. This plan should include the targeted number of people to be trained each year as well as the budget allocation required for the training.
  4. Provide training and retraining of IFFM field staff on regular basis in fire prevention and suppression activities. Training needs to be conducted by the Forest Fire Section within the Directorate of Forestry.
  5. Develop a national standard IFFM training curricula for efficient field training; especially in fire prevention and prescribed burning practices.
  6. Keep the Ogongo, Neudamm and UNAM forest fire curricula constantly updated so as to include latest development results and findings in the field.
  7. Disseminate Forest Fire related law (Act) and regulatory measures to all Government Units (regional/local) dealing with land management issues.

Principles on the Training of Traditional Leaders and both local and commercial Communities

All Governmental institutions dealing with land management issues are responsible for providing education in the control of fires in land clearing activities in forest areas and generally in the safe use of fire and burning.


  1. Prepare and organize training in forest fire extension for forestry officers who will become the future trainers. This can be coordinated by Ogongo Agricultural College which can provide the necessary pedagogical input.
  2. Identify and recruit (together with local community leaders) appropriate community members to be trained as Forest Fire Contractors. This training includes: basic time keeping, accounting, fire prevention and the construction of cut-lines (fuel breaks ) by the use of fire. Train the local people in IFFM activities in communities which are contracted
    by D.o.F.
  3. Provide contracted communities with appropriate tools for fire line construction
  4. Establish close ties with local arts and craft associations (like the Caprivi Arts and Cultural Association (CACA) whose members depend on the availability of wood and non-wood forest products. Establish an extension network through their members.
  5. Prepare basic training programs and appropriate extension materials for local communities to enhance their awareness as to the importance of forest resources. This includes: Billboards (English and local languages), posters, car stickers, newsletters and video.
  6. Develop Fire Drama Plays with local units (Community Theatres) of the National Theatre of Namibia (NTN). Involve the Chief Cultural Officer in each region to support the Forest Fire Extension work.
  7. Cooperate closely with the Ministry of Basic Education and Culture (MBEC) in carrying out fire education in local schools for students and their teachers. Develop appropriate materials for school children and also for Adult Learners in literacy programs in rural areas.
  8. Cooperate closely with local Media and the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in developing Forest Fire Education material for radio listeners.
  9. Increase knowledge of Integrated Forest Fire Management by participating in national environmental competitions e.g. by competitions in fire drama plays or drawing competitions among school children.
  10. Establish demonstration plots where various levels of prescribed fires fire has been applied for the education of the public.

Principles on the Influence of Traditional Authorities and Spiritual Leaders

Residents in local communities often have traditionally in-learned attitudes and values regarding the surrounding trees and forest. These attitudes and the local environmental behaviour often influence the way they perceive forest protection issues. Local communities are influenced by their traditional leaders, thus these leaders can (if properly motivated) assist the Directorate of Forestry in disseminating forest fire management issues.


  1. Identify and recruit traditional community leaders and spiritual leaders as cadres in promoting the needs to protect the forest. Develop a program which includes both incentives and penalties.
  2. Prepare, produce and present training material in forest fire management for traditional authorities, community leaders and local farmers. This material (like the Fire Cartoon, Newsletters and posters) may then further be used by them, as guides in providing additional information to the local communities.
  3. Provide local communities with extension materials on Integrated Forest Fire Management to enhance their awareness regarding the environment and the effects of fire.
  4. Provide Tourists and the General public with information on forest fires (e.g. stickers, posters, billboards) the benefits of avoiding wild fires in the forest. This includes every day activities like e.g. smoking, camping, hunting or other recreational activities.

Principles on the Education of NGOs, POs and Women Groups

NGOs, POs and women groups can provide effective and appropriate assistance in developing the awareness and need for a continuous forest fire management program.


  1. Develop and organize courses for NGOs, POs and leaders of women groups so that they can participate in the management program for forest fires. Include information on the impacts of wild fires to the ecosystem and the benefits of reducing wild fires in their communities
  2. Assist local Women Grass cutting Groups in the protection of their resource and provide training for the women in prescribed burning.
  3. Develop and produce suitable forest fire management material for Adult Learning programs and especially for literacy classes where 68 % of the learners are women.
  4. Develop a fire safety program for women working within their homesteads. This includes thatch roofs, inflammable materials, construction of fuel breaks around houses and fields with growing crops.

5.2 Public Education/National Campaign

Principles on Public Education on the Use and Impact of Fire

These educational activities will lead to Increased knowledge of changes in climate and habitat due to forest destruction by burning and also give guidance into what impact applied research may have on field activities in local communities:
Between 1996 and 1999 some local people in eastern Caprivi were wondering why some large cleared forest areas did receive abnormal rains during rainy season. This question was often raised by traditional leaders. Little did they know about of the sharp increase in soil temperatures of up to 10°C, when forests are burned, compared with unburned areas.
Although the issue about the rising temperature is very complex, one may relate this increase to solar radiation. The darker the soil, the more it will absorb heat. Lighter colours will reflect the incoming sun light more effectively.

Increase in soil temperatures:

  • The increase in soil temperature over burned areas causes irregularities in rainfall. Large tree-less clearings may become so called rain-shadow areas.
  •   Areas covered by trees transmit up to 10,000 litres/ha/year more water compared to plain grass cover (research published by Commonwealth Forestry Association).
  • The local implication among communal farmers is to clear more land for cultivation to avoid these “rainless” pieces of land. This leads to more denudation of remaining forest cover.

New findings about the role of trees:

  • Recent long term research carried out in Hyytiala, Finland reveals that; growing trees have a protective mechanism against too intense solar radiation, they emit aerosols into the air.
  • The research shows that aerosols have a shorter lifespan than the surrounding CO2 particles, likewise their effect is more localized.
  •   In reality this means that when trees continuously discharge ozone and other particles above and around itself, this has a cooling effect on solar radiation into that area. This also implies that soil temperatures around trees are cooler than in surrounding soils even without the effect of the shadow of the tree itself.

In summing up:

Large treeless areas (caused by anthropogenic activities) in arid regions often become so called “rain-shadows”. This implies that due to the increased soil temperatures, the major rainfall tends to cover areas with lesser soil temperatures i.e. adjacent areas still covered by trees. Some frequently burned areas may gradually turn into desert, especially around the Kalahari basin.
Any local Community may suffer losses from forest fires in the form of property and income losses, material losses, loss of medicines and food, loss of “mielies” and other crops, personal safety, sustainability of forest ecosystem, uneven distribution of rainfall due to forest destruction. The Government together with NGOs and other interested parties are responsible to organize general education to communities in the safe use of fire. Education will be more effective when given at an early age to school children and youth.


  1. Establish and enhance cooperation between all Ministries dealing with land management issues as well as with the Ministry of Basic Education, Sports and Culture (MBESC) so the school curricula at all levels will reflect the importance of forest fire management.
  2. Support involvement of non-governmental institutions (NGOs) and other civic groups like the Farmers Union in Caprivi (LIKWAMA) the Caprivi Arts and Cultural Association (CACA), in public awareness campaign on the importance of forests and the protection of them.
  3. Following the Arts and Cultural Policy Statement: Artists shall be required to advocate the need for protecting the environment. Further, they shall be required to mobilize the public to preserve and safeguard the environment.
  4. Use media to provide information to communities on the underlying causes, impacts and management of forest fires. The success of the Forest Fire Campaign depends on the selection of appropriate National Fire Symbol (the Fire Ostrich), slogans to increase the public’s understanding. Seek cooperation with as many stakeholder groups as possible in the implementation of the Fire Campaign.
  5. Provide fire and environmental education, about fire management issues; negative as well as positive, to local schools and their teachers.
  6. Publish booklets on forest fire management and its effect upon basic ecology and the economics of controlling fires in a sustainable way.
  7. Develop suitable material for public education e.g. erect billboards along most important routes (in local languages) organize fire education for the public on open markets etc.
  8. Appropriate national or sub-national education agencies should incorporate peatland curricula in educational programs particularly in areas where peatlands form a significant component of the landscape under both forested and non-forested ecosystems. Such curricula should feature the ecological and cultural functions and values of peatlands as well as their importance to people including traditional knowledge based on input from local communities, women and local healers.

Country Notes
IFFN No. 25

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