Loading

ISFMI Botswana exchange May 2019

From the 11 to 21 May 2019 the International Savanna Fire Management Initiative (ISFMI) hosted a delegation of indigenous rangers and leading fire scientists from Northern Australia into Botswana. Over 10 days fire knowledge and traditional management practices were shared with the people of Botswana.

ISFMI team, indigenous rangers from northern Australia and international partners from Namibia and Mozambique

An important focus of the visit was the Botswana 7th National Fire Management Conference, the theme for 2019 was “Fire Management – A key to sustainable livelihoods”. The Conference is held every second year and provides an opportunity for the country to reassess the national fire management strategy and share experiences. This year the Conference was attended by around 250 people representing a wide range of stakeholders, including the Government of Botswana, local fire managers, indigenous people, scientists and representatives from neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Namibia.

Rangers Robin Dann from Wunggurr Rangers, Nathan Green from Nyikina Mangala Rangers, Bayo Taylor from Karajarri Rangers, KLC Ranger Coordinator Ewan Noakes and Otto Campion & Peter Djigirr from Arafura Swamp Rangers in NT shared their knowledge of fire practices with delegates at the 7th National Fire Management Conference in Maun

The Conference emphasised that an important impact of climate change is increased threat of wildfire. Speakers highlighted that wildfires are a dominant feature of southern African landscape and have a detrimental impact: they emit significant GHG emissions, threaten wildlife tourism, reduce agricultural productivity, threaten lives and infrastructure, as well as damage and erode ecosystems. Many speakers stressed that conventional methods of fire suppression and control are not an effective way to tackle the threat of wildfire. Many delegates and presenters emphasised that community based traditional fire management techniques are an important solution that need much more attention.

Department of Forestry and Rangelands Resources representative assessing the demonstration burning

The ISFMI presentations to the Conference highlighted:

  • how Indigenous communities in northern Australia are reigniting traditional practice of fighting fire with fire;
  • how this approach combined with the latest science and technology is reducing wildfires and building locally owned carbon businesses; and
  • how this technology is being adapted for the southern African landscape in partnership with Government of Botswana and local communities as part of the ISMFI Botswana Pilot Project.

The Conference heard that in Australia Indigenous communities are combining their traditional knowledge with modern science and technology to burn early and keep fuel loads down. This has resulted in less destructive wildfires and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn provides carbon market opportunities.

Kimberley Land Council burning operations supporting remote community livelihoods

Today, traditional fire management is practised across northern Australia’s savannas on a range of tenures including Indigenous lands, conservation parks and pastoral leases. Currently, there are 74 registered savanna carbon projects covering 25% of northern Australia that have reduced wildfire by 50% and generated an industry worth more than $100 million. The 25 Indigenous-led carbon projects create more than 400 seasonal jobs in remote communities, while at the same time reinvigorating traditional culture and improving biodiversity.

The Conference also provided the opportunity for the rangers to demonstrate their traditional fire practices and compare them to the fire management techniques used in Botswana.

WUNGGURR RANGER ROBIN DANN, FROM GIBB RIVER STATION, SAID: “THE BATSWANA WERE BLOWN AWAY BY THE AUSSIES' SKILLS... I FEEL REALLY GOOD KNOWING THAT I PASSED ON SOMETHING… WHEN THEY WERE TRYING TO PUT OUT A FIRE, THEY'D BE RUNNING AROUND, LOTS OF PEOPLE AND FIRE TRUCKS, NOT MUCH LEADERSHIP AND NOT MUCH KNOWLEDGE OF FIRE, AND IT ENDED UP A REAL BIG HOT FIRE... BUT FOR US, WE USED THE WIND, AND OURS WAS LESS INTENSE, LESS HEAT, HARDLY ANY SMOKE...WE'RE DIFFERENT CULTURES, BUT FOR BOTH OF US, FIRE IS SO IMPORTANT, AND ONCE UPON A TIME THE FIRE REGIME IN AUSTRALIA WAS THE BEST IN THE WORLD I RECKON."
Nyikina Mangala Ranger Nathan Green, from Jarlmadangah community, said: "it was a great experience going over to Botswana and participating in the Fire conference, sharing our knowledge on our traditional burning practices with the Batswana people. The way that Kimberley Indigenous peoples burn is very different, we conduct early season burning which stop late season wild fires. The Batswana people have SUPPRESSED that knowledge over time and it was a great experience to help bring that knowledge back and support them in gaining this lost skill".

The Conference adopted a series of recommendations that will guide fire management efforts in Botswana for the next few years. Among these recommendations was the recognition of the relevance and importance of the traditional fire management skills of the Indigenous rangers and the importance of learning and applying these skills in Botswana. The Conference reinforced the findings and built on the recommendations from the Inception Meeting held in Gaborone in November 2018.

ISFMI 'Australia' team, with Director of Forestry and Rangeland Resources, Mmasera Manthe-Tsuaneng, and delegates from the National Fire Management Conference

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
Created By
Ariadne Gorring
Appreciate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.