The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, today recognised fire-fighting cadets, during a Working on Fire (WoF) graduation ceremony in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. Minister Molewa presided over the graduation ceremony and handed out certificates to the best performing graduates.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister said, "This Programme was established in 2003 as part of our initiative to create jobs, to alleviate poverty, to skill previously unemployed youth and to contribute to South Africa's integrated fire management capacity. In August of this year, the Programme was the recipient of the Kamoso Award, under the sector Environment and Culture, for best performing Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) programme. This prestigious award is testimony to the success of the programme in achieving the above-mentioned objectives."
The Working on Fire (WoF) programme was launched in September 2003 to address the prevention and control of wildland fires, to enhance the sustainability and protection of life, property and the environment through the implementation of Integrated Fire Management (IFM) practices. The WoF programme is founded on a high level of basic fire fighting, life skills and various specialised training. The Minister also unveiled a plaque at the Working on Fire Training Academy in Nelspruit.
There are currently more than 5,000 beneficiaries in the programme. The youth make up 85% and women 35% of the total figure. WoF has 199 bases in the nine provinces.
Since 2003, the WoF Programme has provided Integrated Veld and Forest Fire Management training to over 9 000 individuals. This training has been aimed at empowering all levels of the fire organisation to mitigate the negative impacts of fire in rural areas, in a milieu where global warming and environmental degradation continue to have significant effect on the social and economic conditions of our country.
Minister Molewa added that with interventions like this, we do not just create jobs for the sake of it, but also use such opportunities to enhance the capacity of the environment to sustain life and livelihoods. Whilst the focus of Working on Fire is on fire management, its underlying motivation is poverty relief and skills development that is designed to help beneficiaries build self-esteem and fulfil their true potential.
With this programme we address the prevention and control of wild-land fires and enhance the sustainability and protection of life, property and the environment through the implementation of Integrated Fire Management practices. Scientists tell us that climate change will cause further increases in the intensity and frequency of fires, as well as changes in seasonality.
"Climate Change increases our temperatures and with that increased drought frequencies that combine to exacerbate the incidence of fire risk. The WoF programme will continue to play a crucial role in militating against this fire risk as well as playing a key role in rolling out fire awareness education campaigns across South Africa. Critically, the key focus will be on highlighting the fact that thousands of beneficiaries are employed by the programme," said the Minister.
Minister Molewa praised the work of the fire fighters, "Allow me to say this to our Men and Women fire fighters, Bo Mama na Botata you are not just heroes and heroines of fighting the spread of wild fires, but you are also fighting to save human lives, plants and animals. We applaud you for your hard work and bravery in dangerous situations, all in the interest of serving your beloved country. Bo mama na Botata, we must say, we are very proud of you."
The beneficiaries' invaluable work has continued to protect the environment through fire fighting and fire awareness campaigns.