Avoid Uncontrolled Wildfires

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Recently, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Ngamiland, Ghanzi and Kgalagadi Districts experienced wildlife fires. Botswana is often affected by large wildfires in the months of April to October. Fires are common during this season because vegetation is often dry and burn easily.

Fires also become uncontrollable due to heat and strong winds. For the period of 2006-2017, Ghanzi and Ngamiland were mostly affected by the fires with an area of 25,273,530 and 23,888,153 km2 burning respectively. The Central district followed with area of 9,059,825 km2 burning in the same period. The rest of the districts such as Kgatleng, Kweneng and Southeast record a lower frequency in terms of fires. For example, Kweneng district recorded 264 wildfires in the 11-year period with only 3,930,515 km2 of land burning.  

Ghanzi, Ngamiland and the Central Districts have large areas that are well protected by the state such as the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and other a huge wildlife reserves.

Because of the protected landscapes, the outbreak of natural wildfires that burns unnoticed due to minimal movements of people. Fires play an essential part in the maintenance of the environment, but amplified fire activity often leads to adverse effects in the environment such as destruction of property and loss of life.

Loss of wildlife may not necessarily involve that of wildlife, insects, and birds but also human life. This shows that fires provide an environmental service and is an integral part of the maintenance of the environment. However, increased fire activity leads to adverse effects on the environment such as loss of human and animal life as well as property.

Wildfires are either natural or unnatural. Natural wildfires are those caused by lightning usually during the rainy season and unnatural wildfires are those caused by human intervention. Botswana wildfires are usually caused by humans, intentionally or unintentionally.

Some wildfires are caused by poor agricultural management, honey collection, grazing and harvesting management. Some are accidental and that includes recklessness when cooking, disposing of the cigarette without making sure that it’s out among others. Most of the wildfires start near settlements support the fact that some of the wildfires are human induced. However, Botswana experiences frequent unplanned fires that are driven by a combination of climatic factors, policy, land use and social behaviour.

There is need for Botswana and its citizens to manage and control wildlife fires. Researchers have recommended that the establishment of sustainable fire management strategy for Botswana. This approach should be centered on land use fire needs.

A fire management strategy that is based on the use of fire for land use management and community engagement. This approach should adopt an appropriate institutional framework to facilitate effective use of resources, integration of indigenous and modern knowledge systems and help re-focus fire management away from suppression.

A community inclusive fire management approach has a greater potential to be of benefit to both land use and ecological requirements of fire and contribute towards adaptation to climate change. It is from this background that fire should be managed to protect the environment and save life.

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