Nyae Nyae community combats veld fire

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-Due to the lack of rain over the last few years which has exacerbated the dryness of rangelands, the Nyae Nyae Conservancy has been battling with veld fires that destroy the little vegetation that survived the drought.

In 2012, 50 percent of the entire Nyae Nyae area got burnt, resulting in the loss of life as well as damage to rangelands, wildlife and the environment through carbon dioxide (CO²) emissions.

A steady decline has been noted in the amount of land burnt during the dry season. During 2014 about 22 percent of the area (8,992km²) burnt while in 2015 about 12 percent of the area, but in 2016 this came down to 11 percent.

Nyae Nyae Development Foundation coordinator Lara Diez indicated this shows a reduction of 50 percent over the last two years, and an incredible 70 percent reduction since 2012.

According to her, the timing of the fires has also moved to earlier in the year when fires are not so hot and damaging, with the majority of fires occurring before the September or October peak for hot late fires.

“This 70 percent reduction demonstrates that by working in unison, the partners and the local community at Nyae Nyae and their interventions have actively reduced the fuel load,” Diez noted.

It’s against this background that the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest II project have taken a pro-active approach to dealing with fires in their communal areas with tangible visible positive results.

She said the late hot fires of September and October are particularly damaging and uncontrollable, causing widespread devastation.

Diez said the new approach taken by Nyae Nyae fits in with the San cultural tradition of selective burning in the cooler months of May-July.

This, she says, allows the fires to be better controlled and the fuel load reduced to prevent the later and more damaging hot fires.

According to her, the Nyae Nyae community and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, with support from the European Union Climate Change Adaptation Project and the Community Forest II project, are giving the people of the communal areas the opportunity to take control of these potentially dangerous situations.

“The approach taken has been to actively burn a patchwork of areas where there is a high fuel load that threatens a village or vital resource, and raise awareness of the damage of late fires,” Diez said.

During 2017, Diez maintained, the focus will be on burning large patchwork areas in mid-season with the input and support of the local community and stakeholders to ensure a safe and impactful approach.

“The primary goal for 2017 and these activities is to safeguard villages and their associated livelihoods, including the precious devil’s claw as well as their grazing and farming land,” Diez explained.

Furthermore, she said, this ongoing effort by the community and different stakeholder groups is essential to the development of the community in the area and their long-term climate change adaptation and diversification of livelihoods.

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