Authors: McRee Anderson; Irene Muthuka; Douglas Zollner; Clive Chifunte; Anastatia Kulundo;
The Kafue Ecosystem in western Zambia is a 16.7 million acre complex of intact woodland and seasonally flooded grasslands that is dominated by the Kafue River and its tributaries. This ecosystem encompasses the fifth largest park in the world, Kafue National Park - a 5.5 million acre protected area managed by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). One of the main perceived threats to Kafue National Park is the scale of the annual last season burning that occurs within park boundaries. In a five month period, over 8 million acres are burned every year with 60%-80% occurring during the last dry season. As a result of this fire frequency and scale, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and other partners have teamed up to begin a multi-year Fire Management Exchange to identify long-term strategies to address this complex issue.
Since 2012, this collaborative partnership has conducted a series of “Fire as a Management Tool” training workshops for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and interested partners in Zambia, Africa. Over 200 participants from six national parks have attended the 5-10 day training. The workshops provide an overview of the current state of fire knowledge in Zambia, train participants on concepts in fire weather, fire behavior, monitoring, and fire implementation. In addition, managers are developing an ‘early burning’ program with specific resource management goals and desired fire management objectives. Finally, one of the key strategies being implemented is the development of a series of fire “Demonstration Projects” to test ‘early burning’ as an effective tool to mitigate late season fires. This project is using methods learned from the Fire Learning Network to host a series of scientifically driven workshops to help partners develop long term strategies for sustainable fire management in Kafue National Park.