Angola and Congo fires ignored

More fires than in Amazon are burning in Africa according to the NASA data. The data said there were 6,902 fires in Angola and 3,395 fires in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, compared with 2,127 fires in Brazil.

Information for Resource Management Map (FIRMS) shows a large swatch of fire across Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The alarming area of these fires has left some people puzzled why so much attention is being paid to the Amazon, while on the surface it appears Africa is alight with even more blazes.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has led the charge for international relief and solutions for the Amazon wildfire and has pledged aid from France, announced that he would consider starting a similar initiative for sub-Saharan Africa.

However, there are several issues to consider when comparing the two situations: the first difference to understand is that the impact of a wildfire depends more on where and what it is burning, than on how big it is, or indeed how many fires there are.

The vast majority of the African fires currently burning are observed in grasslands in exactly the places we expect to see fires at this time of year. These fires are usually lit by cattle farmers as part of their traditional management of the Savannah where their animals graze. Some fires are started to stimulate new growth of nutritious grass for their animals, others are used to control the numbers of  parasitic ticks or manage the growth of thorny shrub.

The experts, criticizing archaic methods, say that the farming technique, known as slash and burn, is controversial as environmentalists warn it can lead to deforestation, soil erosion and a loss of biodiversity.

But for the farmers it is the cheapest way to clear land, has the advantage of killing disease and the ash provides nutrients for future crops. Burning fields archaic method remains popular among Africans.

It happens every year ahead of the rainy season, which is expected to start in Angola and Congo in the next month or so. This traditional farming to some extend  explains why the fires in Africa have not attracted much attention.

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