Understanding the Causes, Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts of 2019 Veld Fires in the Kingdom of Eswatini
26 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2020 Publication Status: Under Review
Veld fires have become a frequent and devastating phenomena 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 Kingdom of Eswatini are less understood, with very 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 the Kingdom of Eswatini. The study 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, 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) in an effort to improve fire management and to minimize fire-related damages in the country.
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