Proposed Co-operative Fire Management in the SADC (IFFN No. 21)

Proposed Co-operative Fire Management in the SADC Countries of Southern Africa

(IFFN No. 21 – September 1999,p. 22-24)

The member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) now consist of Angola, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Republic of Congo and Seychelles.

In 1992, during discussions between representatives of the Forestry Sector Technical Co-ordination Unit (FSTCU) of SADC and USDA Forest Service, the possibility of a SADC-wide regional forest fire management system was raised. This led to terms of reference in 1994 for an investigation or review of the situation in each country, a report on the findings and recommendations that were discussed at a meeting in Lusaka in November 1995, attended by representatives of 11 of the then 12 SADC countries and by the project team, consisting of experts from the United States and Canada. The review was sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

A follow-up report was produced in February 1996. This report contains recommendations leading to project proposals which are presented in some detail.

I quote here the recommendations contained in the follow-up report:

SADC-Wide Recommendations

Chapter 3 of the SADC Regional Forest Fire Management System Review report details the following recommendations:

1. All resource management agencies involved with a fire responsibility need to adopt a proactive attitude to fire management. As a first step, a position should be dedicated to fire management at the national level and preferably at the regional and project levels as well. The establishment of these positions will provide accountability for the fire management program.

Status: accepted in principle by member states attending a workshop in Lusaka, Zambia, 21-23 November 1995.

2. SADC members should commit to building cooperative fire management arrangements with each other in order to accomplish their fire management objectives, as opposed to “going it alone”. These arrangements should include sharing of resources, operational understandings on common border zones, joint participation in training initiatives, research and technology, and information exchange.

Status: accepted in principle by member states attending the workshop in Lusaka, Zambia, November 1995, and further developed in Project Proposal No.1.

3. FSTCU should arrange for a team to visit Angola to gather information regarding their fire management situation which could be included in an updated version of this report.

Status: completed with FSTCU visit to Angola in August of 1995 and subsequent publication of “Addendum to the SADC Regional Forest Fire Management Systems Review Project” in November 1995.

4. FSTCU should convene a meeting of SADC country forestry, national park and wildlife representatives to review this report and to chart a course for implementation of the Project Proposals.

Status: completed through workshop held in Lusaka, Zambia, 21-23 November 1995, attended by 11 of the 12 SADC member states.

5. Following the meeting mentioned in above (No.4), SADC should consider the need to develop a strategic action plan for implementing a fire management program in Southern Africa.

Status: to be addressed; accepted in principle at Lusaka workshop.

6. In the absence of comprehensive data on fire occurrence and extent at the national level in most countries, a regional program should be developed to monitor and report vegetation loss to fire.

Status: accepted in principle at Lusaka workshop and further developed in Project Proposal No.1.

At the Lusaka workshop it was further agreed that a seventh recommendation should be added as follows:

7. With the recent installation of membership to the Republic of Mauritius, FSTCU should arrange for a team to visit Mauritius to gather information regarding wildfire management in that country.

Status: while attending the workshop, Mr Appanah, Deputy Conservator of Forests for Mauritius, wrote a summary of forest fire conditions in Mauritius, from his perspective. This summary will be included as a separate chapter in the final report. Notwithstanding this, a fact-finding mission to Mauritius, arranged by FSTCU, should proceed.

Against the backdrop of the above recommendations, the delegates to the workshop considered, prioritized, revised and further developed the SADC-wide Project Proposals (Chapter 4). This report details the direction provided at the workshop.

I also quote the list of SADC Regional Wildfire Management Project Proposals, contained in the follow-up report:

SADC Regional Wildfire Management Project Proposals

Incorporating the direction and prioritization provided by the delegates to the Lusaka workshop, four Project Proposals, each with several Modules, have been developed:

PROJECT PROPOSAL NO.1 Regional Wildfire Management Coordination


1A Wildfire Management Coordinating Group
1B FSTCU Wildfire Management Specialist
1C Wildfire Monitoring and Assessment Information System
1D Equipment Development and Acquisition
1E International Wildfire Agreements
1F Wildfire Weather Data Network

PROJECT PROPOSAL NO.2 Wildfire Personnel Training


2A Basic Wildfire Suppression Training
2B Forestry College Improvements
2C Mid-Career Internships

PROJECT PROPOSAL NO.3 Wildfire Prevention and Public Education


3A Wildfire Prevention Information Materials
3B Extension Training – Wildfire Management

PROJECT PROPOSAL NO.4 Operational Wildfire Research and Technology Transfer


4A Prescribed Burning – Miombo Woodlands
4B Operational Fire Management Research – Zambezi Teak Woodlands
4C Wildfire Management Demonstration Centres

The costs for each Module have been estimated in U.S. dollars

Two of the SADC-wide Project Proposals from the original report, one proposing a Centre of Excellence (Proposal No. 9) and the other involving a Fuels and Fire Behavior Photo Series (Proposal No. 14), were not accepted by the workshop participants. Also six of the original Project Proposals were combined into three of the present Modules: Project Proposals 6 and 7 have been combined into Module 3B; 12 and 13 were combined into Module 3A; and 17 and 18 are now Module 1D. Module 1C, Wildfire Monitoring and Assessment Information System, is new and results from the SADC-Wide Recommendations.

After 1996, no further news or progress reports were received from FSTCU. When I was requested to present the current wildfire management situation in the SADC countries at the Wood for Africa 1999 conference in Pietermaritzburg on 10 June 1999, I attempted to obtain a progress report from FSTCU but was not successful in attempts to communicate. At the conference, Dr. Johann G. Goldammer of the Fire Ecology and Biomass Burning Research Group requested me to report on the SADC Wildfire situation for the UN International Forest Fire News. For this purpose I succeeded in communicating by E-mail with P.E.S. Mwale, Head of FSTCU, and was informed that the proposal to USAID to fund the implementation of the wildfire management proposals was declined.

FSTCU is still seeking assistance in implementing the projects that have been identified. Although donors dislike funding that cannot be taken over by the budgets of recipients, to avoid dependency, some of the projects are not of a kind to cause dependency when funded by donors.

Chris Kromhout
Deputy Director, Conservation Forestry
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
Private Bag X93
Pretoria 0001

Remarks by the Editor: Chris Kromhout retired several weeks after the South Africa Wildfire Conference of June 1999.

Country Notes
IFFN No. 21

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