Fires are a major cause of forest damage around the world and Nzara County is no different. More than 80% of the forest plantation area and community forest in the county is burnt every year during the dry season. The fires are often started intentionally to clear land or facilitate animal poaching, but soon get out of control and destroy property and claim the lives of people and wildlife. Forest fires not only burn timber and non-timber forest products, but also severely affect all three levels of biodiversity - genes, species, and ecosystems.
Not all fires are harmful. Fire can be a useful forest management tool if used appropriately. It is important for forest land preparation, regeneration, control of pests and weeds, and maintaining wildlife habitats. In several habitats, fire plays a critical role in the health of ecosystems and in maintaining biodiversity. Managed fire can be used to control undergrowth which not only reduces competition for the primary species to flourish, but also reduces the risk of uncontrolled fires. Controlled fire can also promote new sprouts that are more nutritious and palatable for grazing and browsing animals.
Fortunately for us, teak is extremely resistant to fire after 7 years, so our priority is protecting the younger trees. We have a comprehensive Fire Management Plan, which is updated annually, and work closely with the local communities to try to prevent fires starting in the first place. However, there is still much work to do and we can’t do it alone.