Science tells us that many plant species and ecosystems in Africa benefit from fire and indeed need fire to remain healthy. Traditional farmers recognize this and have for centuries frequently burnt grasslands to stimulate and maintain their grazing potential. However, in the last 150 years, people have changed the fire cycle. They have often increased or decreased both the intensity and frequency of fires in different ecosystems.
With increased development comes the chance of out of control fires damaging property. More recently as a response to climate change, with the desire to build up carbon stocks, there has been a tendency to count the loss of biomass due to fire as a negative. Yet, at the same time, especially in southern Africa we also see a return to using fire as an important landscape management and restoration tool.
This report is aimed at provoking discussions on these issues and reminding us that the right fire management regime is an important element in maintaining the health of different ecosystems. We see this as the start of an important debate on how fire should be used to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems, promote agriculture, and build up carbon stocks to address climate change, while reducing the risks to life and property.
The report Africa – the Fire Continent: Fire in Contemporary African Landscapes was prepared by a team of African experts under the TerrAfrica partnership, together with the World Bank Group.