Zambians impressed by Namibia fire policy

Windhoek – Namibia’s National Forest and Veld Fire Management Policy is something worth emulating, a visiting delegation of Zambian lawmakers said recently.
Introduced in 2006, the policy focuses on fire prevention and suppression by discouraging uncoordinated burning through public awareness campaigns, firebreak networks and community wildfire suppression initiatives.
The policy is being implemented through a fire management strategy based on controlled burning and decentralised community fire management decision-making. So far, it has brought tangible livelihood benefits to communities through improved land use, reduction of uncontrolled fires and improved environmental management.
According to the policy, communities register a fire management area that encompasses their area of authority. Each community elects a fire management committee ‑ a functional group of between four and six community members ‑ that develops and implements a fire management programme on the community’s behalf.
The committees are trained in the process of implementing a fire management programme with emphasis on managing people as much as managing fire.
Traditional authorities administer the committees and arbitrate fire-related disputes within communities.
The development and implementation process is based on the Forest Act of 2001 and regulated by the Directorate of Forestry in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which guides the co-ordination of fire management within communities.
The Zambian delegation consisted of members of Parliamentary Committee on Local Governance, Housing and Chief Affairs.
The chairperson of the committee and the leader of the delegation, Edgar Singombe, said fire is a widespread seasonal phenomenon that is natural and beneficial disturbance to vegetable structure and composition in Zambia.
He said in most cases, blazes get out of control and become wild, in the process destroying tracts of forests, grasslands, animals, people and properties.
Although fire is part of natural processes that aid the nutrients cycle, Singombe has raised concerns that the frequency, extent and pattern of burning are increasing due to human activities.
“The last couple of years have seen the country (Zambia) losing substantial environmental goods and services owing to the spread of uncontrolled veld fires.
“The implications of the uncontrolled veld fires are that biodiversity has been lost as well as property.
“We then thought that since Namibia, one of the countries with a problem similar to ours already has a policy in place, why can’t we learn from them,” Singombe said.
The Zambian lawmaker said in order to minimise the risks arising from veld fires, the country is seeking a strategy that will protect the environment through limiting the damage emanating from veld fires as well as raising awareness on veld fires and their environmental implications.
“There is a need for a National Fire Strategy in our country to ameliorate the risks arising from fires as well as promoting a proactive attitude for dealing with threats and maybe we can learn best approach from our Namibia counterpart,” he said.
During the five-day visit, the Zambian delegation held meetings with several government institutions in the capital, Windhoek, and Walvis Bay, including a meeting with Dr Theo Ben Gurirab, Speaker of the National Assembly.

May 2013
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