Wildland Fire Ravages Whole Village in the Far North Region of Cameroon
6 April 2009
reported by GFMC correspondent Emmanuel Suka
Cameroon — Kalguiwa comprising two villages, Ngoumouldi I and Goudjahani of Mayo Sava in Mora division of the Extreme north region of Cameroon was consumed by a wildfire on the 7th of January 2009.
This took place at about 2 p.m. when most of the villagers went out to accomplish their daily routines. People here practice subsistent agriculture and cattle rearing as major livelihood activities.
The exact cause of the fire was not revealed, but it is a common habit during the dry season to find escalations of wild bushfires during this period of the year.
The savannah grass fields are usually very dry with little grazing material so herders will deliberately set the grazing fields on fire to enable fresh grass to sprout for the cattle.
It is highly suspected that the fire originated from the near by bushes in the vicinity, faggots of which were carried to the villages by high speed harmattan winds that are common at this time.
More over settlement here is semi permanent in clusters and by nomads who live in huts and grass thatches built with sticks and grasses on their grazing fields, this served like fuel and less than 30 minutes everything went on ashes.
Victims wonder in agony and resentment at scene of disaster
Cattle herders believe that new fresh grass mixed with ashes from burnt bushes when eaten by cattle makes them grow healthy and fat, i.e. the alkalinity of the ash will ease digestion and quick absorption and so cultivated the habit of always burning their grazing fields to allow this favorable situation.
A great deal of property and lives were lost including two children, one aged 5 and the other aged 3, who escaped the fire and hid under the bed, and were burnt to death. The population of the two villages were left homeless and passed many nights in the open air in the cold that are usually very high at this period.
Wreckage of the disaster (what remains of the village today!)
Also lost was food stuff ( millet/ maize, other grains that is preserved by drying), hundreds of cattle and sheep, Millions of physical cash CFA franc money belonging to villages that was left in their houses which the fire consumed and many other immeasurable goods.
The victims were assisted by the municipal council who mobilized workers and supplied building materials and houses constructed to the homeless.
Construction of new huts by victims
The government of Cameroon through President Paul Biya assisted the victims, donated the sum of 5 million franc CFA for medical care, food resettlement and other basic necessities.
Government officials handover gifts and messages from the head of state to fire disaster victims.
The gift was conveyed to the people by Mr. Oumarou Jean who is in charge of missions at the presidency of the Republic. Accompanied were the Governor to the Far north region and his entourage, the prefect and sub prefect of Mayo Sava, mayor of Mora, Sultan of Wandala, Government service heads, Politicians and Civil society organizations.
Despite all the heavy losses through deliberate acts of wild land savannah fires, no preventive measures and management strategies have been put in place to curb subsequent incidences.