Malawi — Bush fires are back on the fore in the country, causing panic among villagers. Villagers from Kamwamba, Traditional Authority (T/A) Saimoni in Neno were recently on their toes fighting the fire, whose source was unknown. Carrying tree branches, men, woman and children of all ages went out to prevent the flames from reaching their homes. Last year bush fires caused havoc in the district, destroying 19 houses and rendering some villagers destitute.
One of the villagers, Anne Thamika, blamed mice hunters for the uncontrollable bush fires. With sweat dripping down from her forehead to her cheeks, Thamika blamed game hunters for the fire, which she gallantly fought because it almost reached her house.
“We are on guard every summer. If we cant prevent the fires from catching our homes, we will be homeless. Fires such as these have caused untold misery in this village before. People lost their houses, granaries filled with maize and livestock,” said Thamika Lameck Kaudzu from Kamwamba Village said most households in T/A Saimoni are being affected by bush fires which are caused by mice hunters, poachers and garden clearing, among others. But the fires are also a cause for concern to environmentalists.
“The fires are well-known for emitting gasses into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Again, the quality of air has been affected over time because of smoke from the bush fires,” said Dorothy Tembo, programme officer at Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Cepa).
Cepa is a non-governmental organisation that seeks to contribute to the development of environment and natural resources management best practices in Malawi and the southern Africa region. Tembo said the bush fires damage vegetation, leading to their stunted growth.
“The dangers of fires include burning of natural regenerants, sterilising of soils, stunted growth of young trees and the gases emitted into the atmosphere contributing to climate change,” she explained. Tembo said it was worrying that while government and its stakeholders are encouraging tree planting as a mitigating measure to reduce carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, some villagers are doing the opposite.