(will be published in IFFN No. 23 – December 2000, p. 2)
More than other sectors in natural resources management, forestry faces the ever increasing challenge of harmonising an array of conflicting interests. Interests which range, in a globalizing world, from Angst in the Western World pertaining to disrupting the planets water cycles, climate functions and evolutionary potential expressed by biological diversity, safeguarded by and associated with forest ecosystems, to defending customary rights of indigenous and other forest dwelling peoples from national and transnational timber companies trespassing their home lands or to pharmaceutical conglomerates creaming off forests in search of that single chemical substance which cures AIDS or cancer, thus, inducing share-holder values to skyrocket in a multi-billion dollar market.
It is for those reasons that forestry, although having a meagre share of 2% at total lending of the World Bank, is considered by Bank officials to cause 98% of the institution’s headaches.
Fire is a dominant factor in most vegetation zones throughout the world. Its use as a land-management tool is an integral part of agricultural and pastoral societies, particularly in the developing world, but also of forest managers in temperate countries.
Forest fires, especially in tropical moist forests, are increasing at alarming rates since the 1980s both, in extent and intensity, causing multi-billion dollar damages far beyond the confines of the sector. There is little doubt, among specialists, that human induced factors in forest utilisation at local level, e.g. change of land use cover by encroachment, timber harvesting, plantation forestry or settlement schemes, combine with global changes such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to make tropical moist forests, hitherto thought to be immune from large-scale fires, ever more prone to that threat.
A vicious circle seems to be under way, intensified and symbolised by large fire events, threatening the very foundations of the earths life support systems. As Goldammer states in his article below, “fire risk modelling in expected climate change scenarios indicates that within a relatively short period, the next three to four decades, the destructiveness of human-caused and natural wildfires will increase”.
The ecological Fire Triangle fuel, oxygen and heat is being counteracted upon through the Fire Fighting Triangle composed of intelligence, prevention and suppression of fires. The 18 articles below document project experiences with fire management in German Technical Co-operation. They demonstrate the necessity to develop fire management schemes for such distinct ecosystems as Sub-Sahelian savannahs and tropical moist forests and testify to approaches successfully implemented in a wide range of ecological, political and institutional conditions.
Fire prevention is the central part of any fire management system, seconded by fire intelligence and fire suppression. Since many different actors are involved, fire management systems must address different sectors of society. Public policies and the institutional framework set the conditions for land use, resources protection and welfare of rural populations, thus being an important facet to be addressed in successful forest fire management systems.
The articles are organised in three parts, following the logic of interventions in natural resources management: “Shaping the Institutional Framework” part 1, “Mitigating the Impact” part 2, and “Safeguarding Livelihoods” part 3.
It is in this sense that authors and editors of this special “Waldinfo” issue hope to sensitise and encourage the various stakeholders in forest utilisation and management, to develop and make efficient Integrated Forest Fire Management Programs work.
Hans Stehling Bernhard von der Heyde Peter Saile Georg Buchholz