Trusting local knowledge: the case of fire management in a Namibian park

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Fire and humans have a long history in African savannas. Fire management has played a role in maintaining biodiversity and in the livelihoods of rural communities. One example is when rural people in west African savannas in Mali burn a "seasonal mosaic" in the landscape. A combination of unburned, early burned and recently burned vegetation reduces the risk of more dangerous fires late in the season. This type of burning also protects and increases biodiversity. And it enables rural people to hunt animals, gather plant foods and regenerate grazing for cattle. Understanding this history is useful when managing contemporary fire regimes. The Bwabwata National Park in north-east Namibia has a long and complex history of fire management. The park lies at the centre of southern Africa's Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. The park is unusual in that people live in it alongside wildlife, unlike many conservation areas where people have been excluded from the landscape. People living in the villages use areas zoned for subsistence in the form of livestock and crops, and sourcing wild resources like edible and medicinal plants. These areas also host community-based tourism projects and trophy hunting enterprises.

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The Conversation
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