WWF Zimbabwe facilitates the updating of fire management plans for Hwange National Park (HNP) and its buffer zones
As part of its overall support to improved park management, WWF Zimbabwe in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Forestry Commission facilitated the updating the park’s fire management plan. This was an inclusive and participatory process that brought together key stakeholders to not only contribute to the plans, but to pledge their support in ensuring effective fire management.
HNP areas are in a savannah region which by nature is a fire ecosystem. Periodic and planned burning of the area is necessary to create a balance in the floral biodiversity of the ecosystem. However, uncontrolled fires have been a challenge in the park with fires emanating from buffer communities and poachers among other causes identified in a fire ecology assessment conducted prior to the plan updating workshop. The uncontrolled fires have resulted in changes in vegetation cover as densities of woody plants have been affected resulting in change from forested land to bush land.
The fire management plans will inform site-specific pre-suppression, suppression and post-suppression activities that the managers of the protected area and relevant stakeholders need to implement in order to reduce the occurrence of fires and to mitigate their impact on the ecosystems. Highlights of the fire management plan include fireguard construction, fire line clearing and controlled early burning to reduce the biomass. Community leaders pledged to support fire surveillance and to ensure that community fire brigades participate effectively in fire management within the buffer areas. The symbiotic relationship between communities and the protected areas was emphasized and such participatory fire management will benefit both biodiversity and communities in livelihood enhancement.