Impact of the Integrated Forest Fire Management Program on Rural Livelihoods in East Caprivi Region, Namibia

(IFFN No. 25, July 2001)


1. Introduction

1.1 Background and objective of the study

The Namibia-Finland Forestry Program (NFFP) has been implementing an Integrated Forest Fire Management (IFFM) component in East Caprivi Region since 1996. According to the project document, the main objective was to assist the Directorate of Forestry in “reducing the fires in East Caprivi in order to improve the living standards and the environment of the local people” (GoN/GoF 1996). The immediate goal was to diminish the negative impacts of the indiscriminate us of fire on forest regeneration, agricultural and pastoral lands. Furthermore, with this program Namibia fulfils some of its obligations related to the signing the International Conventions on Climate Change.

A mid-term review took place at the end of 1998. A major recommendation for the Integrated Fire Management Component was to undertake a combined technical and socio-economic review (GoN/GoF 1999). The review was undertaken in July-August 1999 (Trollope and Trollope 1999, Kamminga 1999). In the 1999 socio-economic appraisal the strengths and weaknesses of the IFFM’s implementation strategy (the “model”) were assessed in terms of their effectiveness, socio-economic impact and long-term sustainability. Also more insight was obtained in the existing local knowledge, and fire management and practices.

The first phase of NFFP is coming to an end in April of 2001. In the upcoming second phase, fire management will no longer be a separate program component, but rather an integrated part of the new Community Forestry component. In this context, the IFFM advisor requested a second socio-economic assessment to be done, with an emphasis on quantification of economic benefits. Such information was expected to be particularly useful for generating Regional and National level decision-makers support for fire management activities in the future. The Government’s financial contribution to the IFFM activities during the first phase included financing of labor required for the construction and maintenance of firebreaks.

Unfortunately, the lack of base line information and the complexity of the issues at stake makes a conventional cost-benefit analysis impossible without arriving at broad generalizations and projections that make little sense to anybody who is really familiar with the local context. An illustration is the following. The risk of forest fires in East Caprivi is highest in areas where grazing pressure is low. The costs of protecting such an area with cutlines should be compared with the benefits derived from increased availability of pasture. If lack of water supply is the real constraint for bringing cattle into that area, it might be more cost effective and economically sustainable to construct a couple of boreholes so livestock will keep the grass sward down and reduce the fuel load for free. Allowing communal grazing within the State Forest would be another example of utilizing grazing as an instrument to reduce the fire risk (cf. Trollope and Trollope 1999, Kamminga 1999).

In order to assess the contribution of IFFM to poverty alleviation (“improved living standards” according to the project document) a more qualitative analysis was undertaken, drawing on recent experiences with so called “livelihoods approaches”. Since 1993, various international agencies (CARE International, DFID, Oxfam, UNDP) have developed approaches and methodologies that put people’s livelihood concerns at the center of analysis. Some recent publications that are particularly relevant for the situation in Caprivi are: Ashley and LaFranchi (1997), Ashley (2000), Ashley and Hussein (2000), and Shackleton et al. (2000).

The objective of this brief study was to identify and explore some of the key issues, to assess the contribution of Integrated Forest Fire Management component of the Namibia Finland Forestry Program to the enhancement of local livelihoods and to identify opportunities for improvement. The intended users of the information are (1) Regional and National level decision-makers and (2) the new Community Forestry team that will be responsible for the implementation of forestry activities in Caprivi Region during the upcoming second phase of the program. The study was undertaken by Evelien Kamminga, sociologist with the Namibia-Finland Forestry Program.

1.2. Approach and methodology

A recent publication by Shackleton et al. (2000) “Re-valuing the communal lands of Southern Africa: new understandings of rural livelihoods” provides a useful overview of the livelihoods approach:

The concept of “livelihoods” has moved analysis away from narrow parameters of production, employment and income to a much more holistic view that embraces social and economic dimensions, reduced vulnerability and environmental sustainability, all within the context of building on local strengths and priorities. Households pursue a range of livelihood strategies based on the assets (natural, financial, social, human and physical capital) they have to draw on and the livelihood outcomes they wish to achieve.

The livelihoods of the poor are complex and dynamic, typified by a diverse portfolio of activities that not only enhance household income, but also food security, health, social networks and savings. Most households maintain rural-urban linkages including activities and income sources such as casual and permanent wage employment, remittances, welfare grants, crop production, animal husbandry, wild resource use, social network transfers and other means of income generation through small enterprises. The contribution of different strategies varies and is constantly shifting as household members adapt to changes in the internal and external environment. Gender is integral and inseparable part of rural livelihoods. Men and women have different assets, access to resources and opportunities. New opportunities can increase income for men but increase subsistence responsibilities for women. Diversification can have positive and negative impacts. (Shackleton et al. 2000).

The livelihood impact assessment of the IFFM component focused on how the program activities directly and indirectly affected people’s livelihoods, and the significance of these impacts for poor people. How the impacts are distributed across different categories of people. How people’s livelihood strategies affect their participation in and benefits from IFFM activities. How IFFM contributed to improving poor people’s livelihood security. How people’s assets and capabilities, their activities and strategies have been affected (cf. DFID 2000).

For this assessment, a wide range of key informants and resource people were interviewed. The villages Ibbu, Ikumwe, Isuswa, Lubuta, Muyako, Ngoma were visited. During these visits, interviews took place with traditional authorities, cutline contractors, cut line workers and regular male and female community members, either individually or in small groups. Information on other areas was collected through interviews with people originating from those areas, e.g. the Zambezi Floodplains and Sangwali (Samudono). Also existing secondary sources were consulted and relevant information has been incorporated in this report.


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