In the Southern African savannahs, fire has been identified as a vital, accepted management tool and is strongly controlled by environmental factors such as rainfall and grass fuel load, often more so than human influence.
In Zambia, studies have shown that a combination of extensive burning late in the dry season, continued population growth, wood extraction, and agricultural expansion are some of the factors acknowledged to have resulted in a significant increase in the rate of deforestation and environmental degradation. Among rural households, setting fires is perceived to be an easy and inexpensive solution to clear areas of vegetation for agriculture, improve pastures for grazing, hunting, and stimulating the growth of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Done in a controlled way (for example, early controlled burns), these fires can be effective – but late, hot season fires cause numerous problems in and near to protected forest areas.
BCP has always considered fire management an integral part of its work in the Rufunsa Conservancy / at the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP). On October 26-30, 2015, BCP team member Mr. Darlington Chipita attended a fire management training that was organised by the U. S.
Forest Service (USFS) through USAID, in Eastern Province. The training was intended to provide participants with wild fire behavior knowledge applicable for safe and effective fire management activities, and to introduce participants to interactions of the wild fire behavior and how to best carry out prescribed burning.
“This training has helped some of us understand that fire can be an effective tool in the management of forests,” Mr. Chipita said, reflecting on the outcomes of the training. “Coming from an organization fostering conservation in Zambia, this was an important training especially understanding that fires can have have an adverse impact on biodiversity. Learning that if well controlled and managed, fire can enhance biodiversity, giving an advantage to grass biomass that can be improved through fire and creating an environment where wildlife can settle.”
The recognition of fire as an important management tool in forest management is imperative. According to Mr. Chipita, the need to pass on this knowledge to forest users, especially communities, should be a priority for conservation organizations. As he summarised: “There is a clear need to share this information with communities who are the major users of forests. Communities need to be taught about the importance of fire as a management tool.”
This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content of this blog are the sole responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.