Understanding the causes, socio-economic and environmental impacts of 2019 veld fires in the Kingdom of Eswatini

Publication Year:

Veld fires have become a frequent and devastating phenomenon in the predominantly savanna ecosystems of the Kingdom of Eswatini. While fire damages have become more common and recurrent in recent years, their causes and impacts in the country are less understood, with extremely limited literature. This study aimed at filling up this existing information gap by investigating the causes, socio-economic and environmental impacts of veld fires, as well as highlighting the challenges and/or limitations in fire management and control in Eswatini. It used mixed methods approach to collect both primary and secondary data. These included household questionnaires and face-to-face interviews with key informants. The results showed that the major causes of fires are mainly anthropogenic, and these include arson and conflicts, controlled burning, ignorance of proper fire management practices, collision of electric cables, and acts of negligence, among others. Major impacts of veld fires in Eswatini were found to include disruption of rural (and urban) livelihoods, infrastructure damage, social and psychological wellbeing of affected individuals, loss of biodiversity and destruction of important environmental resources, to mention but a few. The study concluded that fires contribute to biodiversity loss and that fires continue to be a major treat to the country's economy. Lack of fire management resources is one contributing factor to the widespread fire damage in the country, while quantifying the direct economic loss resulting from fire remains a challenge due to lack of standardized fire damages data collection and reporting tools. The study recommended a development of a standardized tool for reporting fire damages, improvement of fire prevention and management, and development of an early warning system (in addition to capacity assessment of fire emergency operators) to improve fire management and to minimize fire-related damages nationally. Keywords Biodiversity Loss, Fire Management, Veld Fire, Environment, Kingdom of Eswatini.

Publication Title:

Open Journal of Social Sciences

Item Type:
Journal Article

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