Eba Kandovazu

A FIRE that started on a neighboring farm near Okaukuejo in the Etosha National Park since this Monday is still raging on, although staff members from the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Forestry have been dispatched to contain it.

Romeo Muyunda, Spokesperson of the ministry, says the fire is burning west of Okaukuejo. It’s cause, he says is not known yet although it entered the park on Monday, from a farm. No animals have been reported dead as a result of the fire yet. Namibia has seen the prevalence of fires in recent months. Just last weekend, two lives were lost on the road between Otavi and Otjiwarongo when an Iveco bus and a pickup collided catching fire which cause another wave of fire in the area. A third person, a farmer in the Otavi area died in an aircraft accident after he was inspecting the severity of the fire damage in his farm. His aircraft fell and crashed. The fires started on Friday.

In August, a 63- year-old man also lost his life in veld fires reported at Dordabis. The remains of the man who got trapped in the fire were only discovered the day after by a passer-by. The fires destroyed 30 farms in the area. The fires lasted about a week. Still in August, a fire was reported in the Etosha National Park.

Environment Minister, Pohamba Shifeta, says the prevailing fires in the country are a result of the good rainfall Namibia received this year, which resulted in the accumulation of a high fuel load in many parts of the country.

According to him, an estimated 2.5 million hectares of grazing land on 604 farms and protected areas have been affected by veld fires.

“While the commercial farms and communal areas have been particularly badly affected by the unplanned forest and veld fires, a different approach is followed in the Etosha National Park, whereby in 2012, the ministry implemented a system of planned patch-mosaic burning and firebreaks, as a tool to support conservation. This involves
the use of early burning and controlled burning of identified areas according to blocks for reduction of fuel load and to minimise hot fires
spreading in the dry season. Once a fire occurs inside a block, it is viewed as manageable because of the preventative measures in place through existing firebreaks,” Shifeta says.

An estimated 487,732 hectares, which is 22 percent of the Park’s area, has been affected by veld fires in 2021. Shifeta says that this is an improvement compared to 60 percent of total area burned in 2009 before the introduction of the patch-mosaic burning and firebreaks tool.