The ISFMI research team, Professor Jeremy Russell-Smith and Dr Cameron Yates from the Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, at Charles Darwin University in northern Australia, met with Universities and scientists in Gaborone in early May to discuss the ISFMI research activities and opportunities for students to participate in the project. The ISFMI research team are also collaborating with researchers from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, who are measuring GHG emissions from fires in southern Africa. Together they are developing a range of activities for the Tsodilo Hills site, towards the development of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) compliant method for measuring the impact mitigating GHG from better fire management.
Professor Jeremy Russell Smith and Dr Cameron Yates from the Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research at Charles Darwin University
The ISFMI team visited the Tsodilo Hills Development Trust and /Oabatsha community within the Tsodilo Hills Enclave. The purpose of the visit was to learn more about traditional fire management used historically by local hunter-gatherer Ju/hoansi San (Basarwa) communities within this important World Heritage Site.
Women and children from the /Oabatsha community participating in the cultural exchange
The cultural exchange created a spark of common interest as cultural knowledge of fire was shared and the similarities between the cultural practices in northern Australian and San were revealed. The Ju/hoansi San use fire as a tool for protecting cultivating native food species, hunting and collecting bush honey, however in more recent times these practices have been suppressed as the threat of wildfire increased across the region. Throughout the community consultations there was a genuine interest from women to learn about and engage in the project.
Exchanging Fire Sticks - the same technology used traditionally on different continents
BYRON FAY, ISFMI Project collaborator, reflected on the experience: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time working on climate development projects, it’s that the messenger is as important as the message. And that is one of the major strengths of this initiative. Those present at the first exchange between the Australian Aboriginal rangers and the San community could see and feel the intense focus from both sides as they conversed through translators about traditional fire management practices and the benefits that can flow from reintroducing them. The moment both sides produced identical sets of fire sticks, to the astonishment of all present, will stay with me for life. A truly historic exchange, and the start of what promises to be a transformative and empowering project.”
The visit was an important opportunity to engage with government, community and scientists to reconfirm of the overall aims of the ISFMI pilot activities in Botswana. It also helped shape and consolidate the forthcoming activities of the ISFMI which include:
- A return exchange by Batswana representatives to Northern Australia in August 2019;
- The community engagement activities around Tsodilo Hills for next 12 months;
- A workshop in Southern Africa on the Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of the impacts of wildfire in September 2019; and
- Program for the 7th International Wildfire Conference (IWFC) in Brazil from 29 October to 1 November 2019.
More information about all of the above is available at isfmi.org.
In conclusion the visit made great progress in achieving the goals of the ISMFI Botswana Pilot Project as set out in the Inception Meeting and the Activity Plan and seeded a partnership between the peoples of Botswana and Australia which will provide an enduring legacy for the project.
Thanks to Robin Dann from Wunggurr Rangers, Nathan Green from Nyikina Mangala Rangers, Bayo Taylor from Karajarri Rangers and Peter Djigirr and Otto Campion from Arafura Swamp Rangers for their leadership and knowledge, it made the exchange a rich and meaningful experience for all.
Thanks also to Kalahari Wildlife Trust for their logistical and project support during the visit
The ISFMI is led by a unique community, corporate and research partnership. The Initiative is hosted by the Baker & McKenzie Law for Development Initiative with the Kimberley Land Council, Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research at Charles Darwin University and Baker McKenzie as partners responsible for delivering the Botswana pilot project.
The ISFMI Pilot Project is Australian aid initiative implemented by LDI on behalf of the Australian Government
The ISFMI Pilot Project is made possible with support and assistance from Government of Botswana Department of Forestry and Range Resources