Assessment of fire prevalence and reduction strategies in Miombo woodlands of Eastern Tanzania
AbstractAn assessment of the proximate causes, effects and factors contributing to fire prevalence was conducted in three districts covered by miombo woodlands in Eastern Tanzania. Three miombo woodlands under different management regimes and governance structures (central government forest reserve, local government forest reserve and village land forest) each were investigated in Handeni, Kilosa and Kilwa districts. Data were collected from three villages selected in each District through household surveys, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), interviews of key informants and field observations. The analysis of data involved content analysis for documentary materials, descriptive statistical analysis for household surveys and Chi square was used to test whether there were differences in responses of local communities across forest management regimes. Results indicate that the major five human activities contributing to fire prevalence across the miombo woodlands include farm preparation (34.1%), hunting (28.5%), arson (21.5%), livestock grazing (9.3%) and charcoal making (0.7%). The causes were fairly the same across forest management regimes. August, September and October were the peak fire months and they were not influenced by different management regimes but by geographical locations within Eastern Tanzania. Results further show that fires in miombo woodlands usually start inside the woodland (67.2%), around residential area (22.9%) and from farms (9.9%). The origin of fire inside the woodland becomes more serious because it combines the hunting, arson, livestock grazing and charcoal making which are usually done inside the woodland. Chi-square test indicates significant difference on origin of fires across the forest management regimes (χ² = 13.341 and p = 0.031). The local communities acknowledged fires having both positive and negative effects and these effects were the same across the management regimes. Further, across the surveyed villages, strong social ties existed between fires and the daily life of local communities. Poverty, ignorance, weak law enforcement and climatic factors were identified as underlying factors contributing to fire prevalence. Fire incidences are predicted to increase given the increasing climate change. Potential strategies to reduce fires incidence identified were awareness creation, law enforcement, making fire breaks, introduction of alternative income generating activities, and improving agriculture practises. Furthermore, the use of prescribed burning to reduce effects of late fires and developing fire management plans to enhance miombo woodland management are among the strategies worth consideration by the local communities.
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