Wild Fires a Major Threat

Wildfires a Major Threat

25 November 2008

published by www.newera.com.na


Namibia — Fire remains a major threat with regard to the conservation of forest resources. Seasonally occurring wildfires are frequently damaging the vegetation of almost all regions and are causing loss of many valuable resources.

The reduction of wild fires therefore is considered as an issue of national importance. The Directorate of Forestry (DoF) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has already some activities in place to reduce the occurrence of wildfires.

Integrated Fire Management is a project under the Directorate of Forestry being financed by the National Planning Commission (NPC). The main objective of the project is to address and prepare for forest fires in Namibia that cause damage to the environment.

The project addresses different aspects such as fire prevention, fire management planning and fire suppression aspects as well as enhances the development of skilled forestry manpower in effective prevention and management of wild fires.

Fire cutline establishment and maintenance increase the security of grazing both in the communal and commercial areas through the minimisation of unwanted fires.

Funds made available by NPC are used to construct new fire cutlines and maintain existing cutlines where local communities are contracted to perform such tasks. The Ministry is currently in the process to acquire heavy equipment that will be deployed in some fire hazard areas to construct and maintain fire cutlines.

Together with the provision of fire-fighting equipment to local communities the dangers of fire to both human lives and the natural environment are reduced. The ministry is providing assistance with fire-fighting to the public in both commercial and communal land. All natural resources users in Namibia will benefit from the project and the security of people, game and livestock from fire risk will be enhanced.

The situation of fire occurrence is being monitored by the National Remote Sensing Centre under the Ministry’s Forestry Research Division. The centre is able to spot any fire at any time via satellite. The satellite images are used to produce fire maps that will indicate the fire occurrence across Namibia. Such maps can be produced for individuals or organizations at a minimal fee.

The Ministry sensitizes Namibian people on forest fire problems through intensive extension, carrying out fire awareness campaigns and builds the capacity of Government and communities to enable them to manage their natural resources sustainably.

The Ministry can also assist individuals, communities and organizations with the development of fire management plans that will give guidance on how to manage fires on a piece of land.

Namibia like other countries, practises prescribed burning which is pre-planned ignition of fire for specific purposes such as fuel reduction, habitat modification, improvement of natural resources (thatch grass), and removal of encroaching bushes.

However, such practice has to be done with the authorisation of the Directorate of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and other key stakeholders as stipulated in the Forest Act No. 12 of 2001 (Forest Amendment Act No.13 of 2005).

Prescribed burning is recommended to be carried out only during specific cases such as in the early morning or late afternoon when humidity is high and temperature is low, and when the wind is low in speed.

Currently, the Directorate of Forestry in collaboration with a German funded programme under the Ministry, and Community Forestry in Namibia (CFN) carry out large-scale tests and experiments on innovative strategies and methods of prescribed burning and strip burning to find out more about their practical applicability. It will be scrutinized whether these techniques can be adapted to the specific environmental conditions in Namibia.

Training is also provided to community members on both fire-fighting and fire management. The training involves fire-fighting, fire prevention and using fire as a management tool.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is requesting the public to contact the nearest forestry office for assistance in fire management and prevention as these services are for free. Equally, the Ministry is also asking for cooperation from the public to assist with fire-fighting when required and to use fires in a responsible manner. The Ministry is also urging the public to report any incident of veld fire and also report people who are causing irresponsible fires that are causing extensive damage to the environment and properties.


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