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

(IFFN No. 25, July 2001)

4. Recommendations

4.1 Employment creation

 4.2 Community forest management and fire

IFFM has contributed to the enhancement of the productivity of the natural resource base and overall household security through a reduction of the risk of wild fires. These effects are primarily achieved through the subsidized construction (and maintenance) of cutlines. It is too early to assess the long-term development effects in terms of community members’ ability and willingness to better control and apply fire as a management tool. The expectations, however, should not be too high. Increasingly sustainable impact on livelihoods can be derived from a strategy in which the issue of fire is incorporated in a broader land-use management or community forestry program.

When fire management is integrated within Community Forestry, there will hopefully be more opportunities for an approach whereby people’s concerns, priorities and existing knowledge and practices are taken as a point of departure. The sub-khuta (silalo) seems an appropriate institutional entry point for community forest management, whereby fire management issues can be addressed as well. In the Salambala report more detail is provided on the potential of the silalo as a planning and management unit (Kamminga 2000).

A strategy that aims at mitigating the negative effects of wild fires on people’s livelihoods should probably include measures to secure access to alternative grazing (e.g. removing water supply constraints) (alternative options) and to multiple crop fields in different fire risk zones (strategy: spreading of risk).

Since crop fields are usually individually owned (ancestral rights) one can assume that the incentives to protect ones own crop field against fire are stronger than for the other land uses (grazing; harvesting of wood and non-wood products). Subsidy for protection of crop fields should only be provided in communities where repeated crop loss occurs due to indiscriminate fires that originate in Botswana or sub-surface fires. In other areas, indirect measures to cope with the effects of wild fires should be identified. Examples are addressing security of tenure; techniques that reduce labor inputs (e.g. access to drought animals; techniques that increase crop productivity; and system for food relief for particularly vulnerable households that loose their crops and have no other means to bridge the loss.

The actual costs of wildfires for livestock production and therefore the potential benefits of cutlines (or any other form of protection) depend on many situational factors. These can be the distance to alternative grazing; water supply; access rights to water and grazing; level of mobility in the existing livestock management system; the role of the traditional leadership; and the ability of individual households to cope with the additional costs. From the livelihood perspective, fire should not be addressed in an isolated manner but as an integrated part of the whole land-use system.

With increasing demand and the market value of thatch grass growing, the need to better define access-rights and use conditions is growing as well. When the benefits are assured people will be more likely to invest in the costs of fire management. The benefits of such an investment, however, must accrue to those people who carry the costs. Tenure is probably the key issue to be recognized in order to create incentives for fire management.

The IFFM model has been largely based on the assumptions that local people are careless with fire and that people’s livelihoods are very negatively affected by wild fire. In order to successfully and sustainably address the fire problem in East Caprivi, the costs and benefits of fire management in different tenure zones and for different land uses, need to be better addressed in their specific context. The approach should be community-driven and problem oriented. It can be expected that areas or resources under a relatively “extensive” land-use system and a common property (silalo) tenure regime benefit more from a holistic strategy aiming at reducing the possible impact of wild fire (e.g. by influencing grazing pressure; water supply). Areas or resources under more intensive use (e.g. thatch grass; pastures nearby village center; crop fields) will probably benefit more from strategies towards the protection and more optimal use of fire (e.g. prescribed burning).

IFFN / GFMC contribution submitted by:

Evelien M. Kamminga
Directorate of Forestry
Private Bag 5558


Fax: ++264-65-230552


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Editorial Remarks:

This report is an output of the Namibia. Namibia-Finland Forestry Program and has been edited and slightly shortened for publication in IFFN in consensus with the author. The original report can be cited also as follows:
Kamminga, E. M. 2001.
Impact of the Integrated Forest Fire Management Program on Rural Livelihoods in East Caprivi Region, Namibia. Namibia-Finland Forestry Program, March 2001, 29 p.
The Internet version of this IFFN paper provides examples of examples of design of visual aids and materials produced by the local Caprivian Arts and Cultural Association (CACA).

[1] “wildfires” are defined in this report as fires that are inadequately controlled either in space or in time depending on the management objectives of the person (groups) that uses the term. Natural resource user groups might have different and sometimes conflicting “fire needs”.

[2] Chivulamunda is a Subiya word that means the area that never floods

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