Namibia — A two-day conference on wildfires begins here Tuesday under the theme “Mitigating the Effect of Wildfires in Namibia”.
The event is being organised and hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF). Namibia is prone to wildfires or veld fires, and it is estimated that the country loses between five to seven million hectares of grazing land as a result of uncontrolled wildfires every year.
MAWF Liaison Officer Constance Mwilima said here Monday that the conference aimed to bring together stakeholders and the public and private sectors to deliberate on ways of limiting the occurrence as well as mitigating the effects of wildfires in Namibia.
Issues on the agenda include an overview of fires in Namibia and a fire alert system; fire management in national parks, conservancies at farm level, community forest areas, other communal land, and government farms; as well as a proposed Forest Fire policy.
Veld fires usually occur during Namibia”s severe dry season, which runs from April to October each year. The most frequent, intense and extensive fires occur in the north, particularly the northeastern parts of the country, while fires rarely occur in the south and west of the country.
Fire caused by lightning strikes is the most significant naturally caused fires, but accounts for a small percentage of all fires. The majority of fires are ignited by people, either deliberately or accidentally.
In October 2011, wild animals worth at least N.dollars 18.6 million were lost during a four-day wildfire which raged in the Etosha National Park. Among the dead animals were 25 black rhinos, five white rhinos, 11 elephants, 60 giraffes, 30 kudus and three lions.
Approximately 300,000 hectares of land — covering the area to the south and east of the Halali Camp up to the Kalkheuwel waterhole — were razed during the fire.
While veld fires are important elements of the savannah ecosystems because they play a role in maintaining the savannah structure such as preventing bush encroachment and opening up systems for other species, the necessary measures are needed to manage and deal with such fires so as to minimise and prevent losses of high-value species of wildlife such as elephants, rhinos and lions.