By Esther Mmolai
Maun — Government has acknowledged continued efforts and support offered by the Australia on various disciplines of fire management.
The Australian government continues to provide technical expertise, fire equipment and training of some community members.
Officiating at the seventh national fire conference held in Maun, Prof Joseph Mbaiwa of Okavango Research Institute said since Botswana’s appeal following the catastrophic 2008 fire season, Australia had extended a sympathetic hand through the New South Wales Rural Fire Services and had been part of Botswana’s fire management journey.
He said the collaboration saw the inception of the national conference which had become an invaluable platform for information sharing on fire management best practices.
Prof. Mbaiwa said fires might be localised geographically but their contribution to global warming had far reaching impacts, “a concern that we all need to address strategically. I am happy that the conference comes in the wake of yet another collaboration in the making between Botswana and Australian government through another project titled International Savannah Fire Management Initiative.
The two governments are working on a collaboration road map and are at an advanced stage”.
He recognised the presence of some SADC member states in particular, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe noting that fire knew no borders therefore cross-border fire management in the region was vital.
SADC, he said, had been a driver on environmental issues including fire management through funding projects such as SADC/JICA Project on Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management of Forest Resources in Southern Africa.
He appreciated that Botswana had enhanced its capacity in areas of forest conservation including fire management.
In addition, he said one of the key components of the project, forest fires management, further enhanced collaborative management of trans-boundary fires.
Meanwhile, the conference brought together stakeholders in fire management such as managers, policy makers, professionals, researchers and community leaders to discuss critical fire management issues affecting natural resources, ecosystems and the global climate.
Prof. Mbaiwa pointed out that the conference enabled better cooperation in stakeholder involvement and in the development of effective wild land fire management strategies.
He stressed the need for Botswana to periodically have such gatherings to assess preparedness, gauge progress made so far as well as share good practices with other practitioners on issues of forest management.
Regular gatherings, he said, should be encouraged as they had a positive impact on people’s reaction towards fire issues.
Prof. Mbaiwa said statistical trends of the total area burnt in Botswana in the past decade reflected the positive strides the community made in managing wild land fires.
Quoting reports, he said the past fire season alone had seen a massive 65 per cent reduction in the area burnt from the previous one which saw the area burnt being 2 101 950 hectares.
In 2017, he said a huge area was consumed by wild land fires and the area was reduced to 735 253 hectares in 2018.
Prof. Mbaiwa said the conference theme, ‘Fire Management- a key to sustainable livelihoods’ intended to facilitate sharing of experiences and lessons learnt on the contribution of fire management to the conservation of natural resources.
Apart from Botswana’s natural environment supporting key industries such as agriculture and tourism which contribute immensely to the national economy, the same environment was equally important in sustaining local economies through the use of veldt products, he said.
The theme, Prof. Mbaiwa said, came at an opportune time when Botswana was striving to diversify its economy to sustain people’s livelihoods as espoused by the National Development Plan II.
He hailed community and traditional leaders for responding positively, noting that their response time to fire outbreaks had significantly improved due to effective fire monitoring system.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>