Tanzania — Forest conservationists in the country are calling for more efficient planning to save 10 per cent of the countrys total land area that is lost to wild fires annually.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday News, Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources official, a member of the Integrated Fire Management Technical Committee, Mr Charles Ngatigwa, said an average of 900,000ha succumbs to bush fires annually in the country.
One of the interventions to control and prevent wild fires is early burning of bush land. Most fires take place in mid to late part of the dry season (July onwards), therefore with proper planning, this can be offset early, he said.
Mr Ngatigwa said that the impact of fire damage suppresses regeneration, tree mortality is increased and shrinks coastal forest fragments.
He revealed that the Ministry and other stakeholders have already started the initial steps of formulating a Fire Management policy that will ensure better coordination and from it bring rise to legislation, guidelines and regulations.
In line with this, a NGO, Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI) has introduced an innovative technology in the prevention of uncontrolled fires in the forests of Kilwa, which aims to save 65 per cent of forest that burns annually.
The technology that has been adopted from Australia and modified for Tanzania, the drip torch gives provision for early burning that will reduce both fire intensity and fire frequency in the community forests.
MCDI Social Research Manager, Ms Glory Massao, said that using pre-emptive burning methods reduces grass load as it makes it harder for fires to catch and spread and that any emerging fires will be cooler.
It should be noted that early burning does not entirely prevent late season fires and instead one should expect frequency to drop from 50 per cent to between 10 and 20 per cent of forest burned in late season each year, she said.
Ms Massao explained that a well-planned burn can reduce fire hazard and also improve wildlife habitat and almost any prescribed burn improves access. Prescribed fires are not always beneficial, however.
When conditions go wrong, prescribed fire can severely damage the very resource it was intended to benefit. Prescribed fire is a complex management tool and should be used only with care under controlled conditions.
She cited that traditional fire management in the country used to clear new fields for farming and in projected area management, usually burning less than 1ha at a time, adding that fire management in forests requires the burning of approximately 10,000ha per week.
MCDI Chief Executive Officer, Mr Jasper Makala, said that 2014 is MCDIs fifth year of piloting their reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) project as an additional means for rural Tanzanians to earn money from managing miombo woodlands.
Mr Makala said that although fire abatement through burning the grasses in miombo woodlands early in the dry season reduces deforestation and carbon emissions, it is an expensive and labour intensive task which would not be undertaken on a large scale without communities being adequately rewarded.
He said to maximise the revenue that villages can generate through their REDD project, MCDI measure the resulting carbon stock changes according to the best known and toughest international carbon market requirements, as defined by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).