22 August 2006

Namibia: We're Playing With Fire - Literally

Windhoek — ALTHOUGH the good rains earlier this year left Namibia with abundant grazing for the dry season, it can be destroyed in the blink of an eye by someone handling fire recklessly.

The President of the Namibian National Farmers' Union (NNF), Manfred Rukoro, says most of the veld fires being reported around the country were caused by negligent handling of fire.

"I think there is a need for a massive education [campaign] to sensitise people on how handle fire with care," said Rukoro.

He said veld fires could destroy much of the grazing that has to see livestock through until the next rainy season.

The Deputy Director of Forestry, Nyambe Nyambe, says this year's veld fires are particularly destructive because of dense vegetation after last summer's good rains.

The grass is now dry and catches fire easily.

Nyambe said the fire risk was increased by a careless attitude towards fire prevention, and even deliberate arson by people who don't care about the consequences.

The Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) has sent information material to its members on how to fight and prevent veld fires.

In June this year, the Ministry of Agriculture launched a National Forest Management Campaign.

The campaign includes various Ministries and other stakeholders who have pledged to give a helping hand in the fight against veld fires.

Nyambe said the Ministry, through its regional Forestry Offices, was also paying communities to create and maintain firebreaks.

He said the forestry offices have been provided with fire-fighting equipment, especially those in regions most prone to veld fires.

In the past two months, veld fires have destroyed large areas of grazing in the Dordabis, Kamanjab, Khorixas and Karibib farming areas.

At Dordabis, one of the fires is believed to have been started by a road grader used to clear firebreaks.

Another was caused by a spark from an angle-grinder used by builders.

A fire that raged in the Kamanjab area a week ago is believed to have been caused by a smoker who discarded a burning cigarette butt.

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