Course:FRST370/2022/Wildfire management in Botswana: a shift towards community management

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Summary of Case Study

Fire is a natural disturbance regime that has increased in severity over time, creating a volatile and complex management environment (Johnston et al., 2020). Botswana has seen an increase in unplanned fires which can be attributed to a combination of climate change, policy, land use and management, and social behaviours (Johnston et al., 2020). Globally, countries have seen a shift toward community-based fire management (CBFiM) as a response to complex fire management issues. This study seeks to analyze the current fire management regimes and practices within Botswana and the potential effectiveness and feasibility of a shift towards community management. Additionally, the study discusses the traditional fire management practices among the Indigenous people of Botswana and how that may be weaved into the CBFiM structure (Johnston et al., 2020). To implement CBFiM in Botswana successfully, challenges such as government policy, incentive, perceptions of wildfires, and necessary investments in capital must be assessed and addressed (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011).


Community-based Fire Management: CBFiM

Community Based Natural Resource Management: CBNRM

Chobe Enclave Community Trust: CECT

Kasane Forest Reserve: KFR

State Forest Management: SFM



Located in southern Africa, Botswana borders Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Although forestry in Botswana does not contribute much to the gross domestic product of the country, it has been beneficial to local rural communities as it provides food security, stable income and environmental protection (Forestry Economics and Policy Division, 2001). Wildfire management of ecosystems in particular has been historically important in Botswana.

Map of the Chobe District (Fox et al., 2017)

60% of Botswana’s land area consists of woodlands, the majority of which are tribal lands in the northern portion of the country (Forestry Economics and Policy Division, 2001). Of particular interest to this case study are the Kasane Forest Reserve (KFR) and the Chobe Region, home of the Chobe Enclave community. These regions are under immense pressure from ecotourism and urbanization due to their proximity to residential areas (Lepetu, 2012). The KFR is also severely threatened by wildfire (Lepetu, 2012).


Botswana’s economy was historically almost entirely dependent on the diamond industry, with 82% of the country’s exports and one third of the government’s revenue coming from diamonds in 2016 (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). As the diamond industry is currently in decline, economic growth in Botswana is beginning to slow (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016).

The independence of Botswana occurred in 1965 when the Botswana Democratic Party came into power (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). Since then the country has undergone many political and economic advancements (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). Botswana now relies on ecotourism as an important source of revenue, especially in the Chobe Region and within the KFR (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). Following Botswana’s independence, many traditional resource management methods were lost (Lepetu, 2012). The government however cannot easily manage Botswana’s natural resources due to their wide dispersal and difficulty to control access to (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). The government has thus decentralized the management of natural resources to local communities to ensure that they are protected and to prevent them from being destroyed (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016).

Management Practices

Traditional Wildfire Management Practices

Fire is one of the oldest and most-used tools for managing ecosystems (Barsh, 1997). Through burning fires, indigenous peoples across the world have helped to manage ecosystems and forests (Johnston, 2020). Botswana has a history of traditional fire management that involves many different practices (Johnston, 2020). The Khwe people of Kalahari, Botswana are “one of the last societies using annual firing to regenerate their environment, despite official discouragement” (Barsh, 1997, p. 1). Many traditional fire management practices in Botswana are similar to those of Australia; both countries’ indigenous peoples would burn fuel loads in the savanna during the dry season. Frequent small fires would open up the forest canopy and promote greater diversity while lessening the severity of subsequent fires (Barsh, 1997). Other practices such as “fire-stick farming” where vegetative patches are burned to yield specific food or plants to attract wild game have been utilized by Australian traditional peoples (Barsh, 1997). Additionally, many communities have historically planted the seeds of pyrophilic plants following intentional burning of vegetation in order to increase the success of their growth (Barsh, 1997). The colonization of Botswana displaced many traditional peoples from their lands and much of the ancestral knowledge of the lands were lost (Johnston, 2020). Following the independence of the country, there has been a lack of traditional authorities and traditional resources management (Lepetu, 2012). This may have contributed to the negative attitude toward community forest management that still exists to this day (Lepetu, 2012).

Current Wildfire Management Practices

There have been no changes to wildfire management in Botswana for the past 20 years (Cassidy et al., 2022). Currently, fires are seen as a very negative disturbance that threatens the ecological and social uses for land (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011). Consequently there is a focus on fire suppression and prevention as the primary form of wildfire management, which takes very little traditional wildfire management into account (Dube, 2013). This focus on fire suppression results in the accumulation of fuel on the forest floor and can cause more severe fires in the future (Johnston, 2020).

There is little control of wildfires in Botswana due to a lack of resources and access (Cassidy et al., 2022). Furthermore, there is difficulty reaching a consensus on how to manage fires and the wildfire regime in Botswana isn’t fully understood (Cassidy et al., 2022). Practices and other land use habits such as slash and burn that occur during the dry season are drivers of unplanned fires (Cassidy et al, 2022). Poverty and a lack of property rights are also driving forces for poor land management since the people of Botswana have immediate needs and low incentive for long-term sustainable management (Cassidy et al., 2022; Dube, 2013). As more information comes to light about how prescribed burns have historically played a role in the development of forests, people are beginning to become more accepting of the use of fire in forest management and the implementation of CBFiM (Barsh, 1997).

Community Based Natural Resource Management (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016)

The Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) program was implemented in Botswana in 1989 and adapted as a legal policy in 1997 (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). The main objective of CBNRM is to reduce poverty by creating employment opportunities, generating income, providing social services and encouraging biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of resources at the same time (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). Additionally, it guarantees that revenue created through wildlife and natural resource management is shared among private owners and local communities (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). “The implementation of the CBNRM programme demonstrates that if communities are given proper tools and incentives to manage natural resources, they can organize themselves effectively and take appropriate conservation measures.” (Thakadu, 2005, p. 12).

In order for CBNRM to be fully successful there needs to be effective governance, political support and encouragement for a diverse range of economic opportunities (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). The institutional arrangements for CBNRM are as follows (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016):

  1. A community-based organization (CBO) has to be established legally – usually a community trust is formed.
    • The community trust is in charge of dealing with revenue in such a way that benefits the community the most.
  2. CBOs can lease land from the Land Board and get user rights from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
    • These rights include rights to commercially harvest resources, rights to hunting quotas and more.
  3. CBO rights can be used so that communities can manage resources themselves, or communities can sell or auction their rights to other parties.

Some communities say that the devolution of wildlife management is unfair since 80% of CBNRM income is generated in northern Botswana, simply due to the fact that wildlife and natural resources aren’t as accessible to communities in the south (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). Furthermore, certain communities don’t have the ability to negotiate fair deals with private tourism operators when entering into joint venture partnerships. The Botswana Tourism Organisation was created in response to this issue and ensures that CBOs don’t enter partnerships that are not suitable for them.

The Chobe Enclave Community Trust (CECT) is made up of five villages in northern Botswana and served as a pilot community for CBNRM (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). The CECT has participatory decision-making where each village holds a forum to decide where CBNRM funds should be spent (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016). The CBNRM “lifted the Chobe Enclave out of poverty by providing [them with] both local economic opportunities and livelihood diversification” (Chevallier & Harvey, 2016, p. 6).

Tenure arrangements

"A clearly defined land tenure that provides legal ownership, clear boundaries and security, in the form of enforceable rights, is most likely to provide the necessary incentives for communities to manage fire judiciously both in the short term and the long term” (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.21).

There are three main types of arrangements, tribal land, freeholds, and state owned land. Tribal Land has become the most common type of land, with state owned following and only a very small portion of freehold remaining (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Regardless of the type of land arrangement, the individuals or community with rights to it have a right to fair compensation (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010).


Tribal land in Botswana is often seen as equivalent to Customary Land in other countries. Every individual in Botswana is entitled to it and can access some from the government via Customary Land Grants and Common Law Leases (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Customary Land Grants allow for the recipients to access, use, manage, inherit, and exclude others from the land as long as it is not harmed, but not to sell or transfer the land without approval of the board (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). They can also be turned into Common Law Leases, which require for the recipient to be a citizen of Botswana or approved by the Minister. Rather than the indeterminate length of Customary Land Grants, Common Law Leases grant land with marked boundaries and are given on short term or long term basis, with the long term varying from 50-99 years based on its use (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010).


Freehold land is the least common type of tenure, as it is being phased out as of 1978 and converted to tribal or state owned land (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Freehold land is primarily farm and agricultural land, in which the owner has the right to access, use, manage, transfer, sell, or inherit the land for an indefinite amount of time (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010).

State Owned

State owned land is found both in rural and urban areas, with the urban areas used for mainly financial benefit and residential purposes, while rural areas are predominantly parks and reserves  (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). In other words, urban areas are used commercially, industrially, and residentially, while rural areas are used for national parks, game reserves, and forestry reserves. The land is managed through the State Land Act of 1966, and is granted via a Certificate of Rights or a Fixed Period State Grant  (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010).

Certificates provide recipients with access, use, management, exclusion, and compensation rights for an indefinite amount of time. It is still, however, ultimately considered state land and can be inherited but not sold or transferred  (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Further, they can be converted into Fixed Period State Grants.

Fixed Period State Grants add the rights to sell or transfer the land from a Certificate of Rights, but have a time limit. The duration is based on the type of land, with a grant of 50 years for industrial or commercial purposes or 99 years for residential (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Residential, commercial, and industrial uses are largely in urban areas, and thus Fixed Period is most common in those areas.

Administrative arrangements

Customary System

Land used to be allocated in Botswana using a customary system, where chiefs were in charge of both allocations and mediation of disagreements (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Each tribe had their own land, and each individual in the tribe had rights to that land, referred to as the Right of Avail (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). An area of land could be categorized as residential, arable, or grazing, each with their own set of rights.  The rules surrounding the system were passed down through generations, and are still highly influential in rural areas today. It was, however, difficult to get land if an individual was not part of a tribe, leading to the Tribal Land Act of 1968 (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010).

Administration by the Federal Government

The government of Botswana controls land through the Ministry of Lands and Housing, which is composed of land boards, land tribunals, and some departments (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). The Main Land Boards are mainly in charge of management, such as by acquiring, registering, allocating, monitoring, and planning plots (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). In other words, they are in charge of most of the roles that were given to the chief in a customary system. Then, the land tribunals function as a judicial sector, having the ability to appeal the decisions of the land boards (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Every individual has the ability to appeal to the land tribunals. Finally, the departments regulate more specific processes on areas of land, such as mapping and housing (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010).

There are also many laws and policies regarding the forests of Botswana, and fires in particular. Some of them, such as the Tribal Land Act of 1968, drove the change from a customary system to the current. The Tribal Land Act details the structures of the land boards and their processes. It states that everyone has a right to fair compensation, which can entail money or other parcels of land (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). The resulting ability to get land regardless of if you were part of the specific tribe of the area led to an increase of people near urban areas (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Regardless, the transfer of power from local authorities to land boards is said to reduce unfairness as there are less opportunities for bribing. (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). In terms of fire based laws, it is illegal to start a fire outbreak, but permission can be given to burn certain areas (Dube, 2013). Accordingly, ranches and commercial farms are often permitted. Ultimately though, when an outbreak does occur, the Forest Act of 1968 dictates how forest officers manage them (Dube, 2013).

State Forest Management (SFM)

State forest management (SFM) is a top-down system of management and governance and is the current regime that Botswana's natural resources are managed under (Garekae et al., 2020). SFM was built upon a perfectionist model where forests and forest resources were to be kept as pristine as possible (Garekae et al., 2020). This led to fencing out local people and fining them for trespassing as they were seen as agents of destruction that would threaten the forest and its integrity (Garekae et al., 2020). Rural people were displaced from the same forested areas they had lived with and conserved for years prior (Johnston et al., 2020). It is crucial to understand SFM as the woodland areas in Botswana play a critical role in wildfire management. This is because wildfire management's implications are key regarding the conservation and protection of Botswana's woodlands (Garekae et al., 2020).

Community-based Fire Management (CBFiM)

The effects of wildfires are generally amplified in rural communities due to proximity to the fire itself and lack of resources, so local people often must take action (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.v). This often emphasizes prevention and preparedness over suppression of fires (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011).

Some social challenges of this form of management include:

  1. Lack of appropriate skills (Lepetu, 2012, p.237).
  2. Lack of training and management education (Lepetu, 2012, p.237).
  3. Defining exactly what/who the community benefitting is since many communities are culturally heterogeneous and economically stratified (Lepetu, 2012, p.237).

The attitude towards CBFiM is generally negative in Botswana (Lepetu, 2012). This could be due to a lack of traditional authorities (chiefs) and a loss of traditional resource management methods following Botswana's independence in 1966 (Lepetu, 2012). The concept of involving local communities is also seen as a foreign concept due to the top-down structure that has governed the people of Botswana (Lepetu, 2012).

Affected Stakeholders

Federal Government

The federal governments main objective surrounding wildfire management is to prevent wildfires from creating social, economic, or environmental harm (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011).

Relative Power

The federal government has the power to dictate legislation and policy that determines the rights local communities have and their role within management systems. Additionally, Botswana's government is responsible for providing knowledge and resources that may be required for the success of CBFiM (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011).

Local Communities in Botswana

The primary objective of communities within Botswana surrounding fire management is to protect property and to benefit from resources that may have otherwise been lost to severe and uncontrolled fires (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011). Communities are often pivotal as they often fill in the gaps that agencies and other various systems cannot regarding routine and effective fire management (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.2).

Relative power

Communities in Botswana that relied on natural resources in socio-economically and politically have the opportunity to reclaim resources by managing wildfires (Thakadu, 2005). This increases rights surrounding the resources and land they depend on and furthermore, empowers communities (Thakadu, 2005).

Interested Stakeholders

Non-Governmental Organizations

The objective of NGOs involved with fire management is to support those of which that have aligning goals. Community-based management often involves other stake holders such as NGOs that have similar objectives and can provide support when capital is being established (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.5). The FAO states that, "Community involvement in fire management involves a range of local actors, including agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), that work on fire management...Elements needing support may include: analysis of the fire problem, technical capacity, regulatory framework or logistical assistance" (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.4).

Relative Power

NGOs have the power to support local communities financially and socially. This support may take the form of logistics, regulatory framework, technical capacity, and analysis of the fire problem (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.1).

Eco-Tourism Industry

Tourism within Botswana is viewed as a key industry as it makes up 5% of the nation-states GDP and creates jobs for the impoverished (Lepetu, 2012).

Relative Power

Because of eco-tourisms importance to society in Botswana, it can be used as a powerful asset for accomplishing natural resource management objectives. This may be done by maximizing the amount of area that can be used for ecotourism by granting licenses to the community as it acts as an economic incentive for communities to actively protect it (Ni’mah et al., 2018).

Power Analysis

High Influence Low Influence
High Importance - Main Land Boards - Local Communities and Farmers

- Indigenous People

Low Importance - Land Tribunals

- Industries (i.e. Tourism)

- Departments of the Ministry of Lands and Housing

- NGOs and Donors

- United Nations/FAO

High Influence, High Importance

  • Main Land Boards make main management decisions and allocate the land to various groups (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). They are the deciding factor for who has land.

High Influence, Low Importance

  • Land Tribunals are able to reverse the decisions of the main land boards but do not come into play unless there are disagreements (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). Thus, they can greatly influence policies but do not have a lot of importance until other actors ask for them.
  • Industries (i.e. Tourism) help to support the economy and thus have some degree of influence over the government. They can bring in money and jobs to local communities, or own land themselves (Lepetu, 2012).

Low Influence, High Importance

  • Local Communities and Farmers only have rights and influence via the Main Land Boards but can have a fair amount of influence depending on the type of lease they have (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010). They are highly important as they are the ones who often manage the forest directly. There are many farmers in local communities as people largely live in rural areas. Thus, the choices of trees they plant and how they use them affects their local community (Lepetu, 2015).
  • Indigenous People have rights and influence via the Main Land Boards and locally can have rights and influence through customary systems. Ultimately though, the government has mitigated their influence through the Tribal Lands Act (Collins & Bornegrim, 2010).

Low Influence, Low Importance

  • The departments of the Ministry of Lands and Housing have little effect on the policies and allotment concerning land in comparison to the other branches.
  • NGOs and Donors, despite increasing involvement in recent years, are currently not largely involved and thus do not have high influence or importance in the current system. They can be beneficial in the long term though (Forestry Economics and Policy Division, 2001).
  • The United Nations/FAO sets policies that the government is encouraged to follow but has no real control over the country.


Overall, the government has a large amount of influence on the land and how it is distributed and managed. In contrast, the community is affected strongly by the land but often does not have as much influence over it. A shift towards community management would increase the influence communities have over the land, and would increase the influence of individuals as well. Furthermore, the increased involvement of outside actors like NGOs and donors can increase the amount of funding the community has for management and participation, among other things. It would be beneficial to continue to encourage interactions. Another potential way to improve could be increased technology for communities, as it could cause the communities to be able to produce and process more at a lower environmental cost (Forestry Economics and Policy Division, 2001). In turn, communities could have more influence over the government as they would have more influence on the industry.


Aims of Community Wildfire Management

This study intends to analyze why there may be a shift towards a participatory approach regarding wildfire management in Botswana. This includes an increase in fire severity which stems from colonization as it displaced people from traditional lands and alienated predecessors from the knowledge associated with the land (Johnston et al., 2020). As mainstream fire management took on a more colonial look, fire severity increased which can be attributed to a focus on fire suppression instead of fire prevention (Johnston et al., 2020). Additionally, there is a common view that fires are a challenge and we must control them because they are negative instead of viewing suppression as a symptom of poor management practices and prevention (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.2).

CBFiM also allows for local communities to respond to and manage wildfires. This is beneficial as wildfires often have an amplified effect on rural communities due to communities proximity to wilderness and agricultural practices and general poverty (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.v). CBFiM may increase response to and prevention of wildfires via active participation and ownership over the land and its resources (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.21).

Requirements for the Success of a CBFiM


One key component of success for a CBFiM is summarized by the FAO as, "good governance and relevant policy and legislation that support integrated fire management approaches are the minimum requirements" (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.ix). Currently, government policy and fire management regimes often conflict with the traditional practices of people in Botswana. Therefore, to allow for effective implementation of local communities and their traditional wildfire management practices, policy must be amended to reflect the heterogeneous nature of community-based management (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011). Legislation is pivotal as it provides communities with incentives, empowerment through active involvement, and increased rights (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011).

Property Rights and Incentive

Incentive is necessary for a meaningful CBFiM. This may be achieved through increased rights surrounding resources and land. As rights are recognized, local communities feel a sense of ownership and responsibility (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.21). In addition, communities may benefit from resources that can meet immediate needs. If communities can reap the long term benefits from the land they will continue to be concerned about the sustainable management and protection of it (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.21).

Investments in Human and Physical Capital

To achieve long term, effective management of natural resources skills, training and education are necessary (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.32). This is problematic as rural areas and local communities often do not have access to specialized training (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.69). Therefore, localized training efforts must be made. This requires investments and support from outside participants such as support from government agencies. It is also noted by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations that technical support is necessary for the success of CBFiM's which may also be acquired from outside support (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.xi).


“...a paradigm shift to decentralized and participatory forest management approaches is yet to be embraced in Botswana.” (Garekae et al., 2020, p.693)

Government Policy

Challenges noted for CBFiM implementation notedly include a lack of political support regarding policy (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.xii). The FAO states that, “In developing countries, communities that use fire are subject to fire-management policies that often conflict with their traditional fire-use practices” (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.6). Currently, there is a lack of support from the government which is reflected within legislation that is not community centred and maintains a top-down approach.

Perception of Wildfires

Another barrier to CBFiM are the common misconceptions that feed into fire suppression over management before a fire occurs (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.2). This is summarized by the FAO which states that, “In most cases, there is no overall fire management framework available. The view that all fire is negative and fearsome leads, in turn, to the view that fires are a suppression challenge rather than a symptom of underlying management problems” (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.2). The opinion that fires are a challenge and we must control them because they are negative is prevalent. This has led to a system where instead of viewing suppression as a symptom of poor management practices and prevention.


Additionally, there is a lack of incentives for locals to engage and lack of resources for them to do so, hindering the success of CBFiM as it limits the same communities it depends on (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011). Legislation can be tied into this as it can legally enforce protection and compensation which acknowledge efforts. Legal recognition and a sense of ownership over resources and land provide incentive to carry out long-term, sustainable management and protection of areas vulnerable to wildfires (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011).

Funding and Training

Funding and training are often a constraint to the effective implementation of community-based initiatives (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.32). This is because there is often a lack of physical and human capital in rural areas of Botswana. This means that capital must be invested in for an efficient and meaningful CBFiM (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2011, p.32). To overcome this challenge, relationships building with NGOs and government agencies may be necessary to promote CBFiM and its long term success. Moreover, outbreaks of wildfires are often caused by daily use and reckless behaviour that could be mitigated by education on safe practices. As a result, training could include topics such as ignition sources, what is a safe area to light a fire, and weather conditions (Dube, 2013).


Approaches In Other Countries

British Columbia

British Columbia’s approaches are largely funded by the government, and include policies such fuel reduction, community involvement, and community awareness (Copes-Gerbitz et al., 2020). Fuel reduction can reduce the risk of outbreaks and can be done through community participation or governmentally. However, fuel reduction can be costly, which given the already low investments in the sector could be an issue. Encouraging community engagement helps for wildfire management to run more smoothly, especially since they can have traditional knowledge relating to management that is successful in the area. Furthermore, BC has policies that work towards promoting ecosystem resilience using adaptive management and processes like prescribed burning (Copes-Gerbitz et al., 2020). Promoting ecosystem resilience helps to decrease the effects of climate change, as the ecosystem is able to recover faster, which is essential due to the increasing intensity and frequency of fires in Botswana. Thus, reducing the fuel available in the forest and using processes such as prescribed burning can decrease the amount that burns in an outbreak while still keeping the system healthy. The culture against burning commonly found in Botswana would have to change in order for the processes to be socially acceptable after fire prevention was pushed for so many years. Thus, the government in Botswana needs to invest in community involvement not only for participation and knowledge, but also for support in beneficial changes in management.


Australia also has practices such as prescribed burning in order to promote ecosystem resilience. Indigenous people of Australia use drip torches to set small sections of undergrowth on fire, and use the wind to encourage it rather than the ignite and let burn method common in Europe (Johnston, 2020). In a demonstration comparing the two techniques, the indigenous techniques left trees intact and only cleared undergrowth while the European left next to nothing behind (Johnston, 2020). In other words, Australian indigenous techniques reduced the amount of fuel for wildfires in the future and cleared the understory for new plants to grow without damaging the canopy.

There has been a project to implement the strategies of indigenous Australians in Botswana called the International Savanna Fire Management Initiative. The results thus far have found that the practices not only reduce destruction, but also prevent large greenhouse gas emissions, increase biodiversity, and increase ecosystem productivity (Johnston, 2020). Furthermore, they are similar to traditional techniques in Botswana and can help to revitalize the use of those techniques (Johnston, 2020). Therefore, in continuation of the Initiative, prescribed burning techniques like those in Australia and historically in Botswana should be more widely used in order to improve the overall health and safety of forests.


Altogether, British Columbia and Australia have processes such as prescribed burning and fuel reduction that work to mitigate the effect of fires in an individual outbreak while keeping the ecosystem functioning. Botswana could benefit from similar processes, especially since they are examples that promote ecological resilience and thus can mitigate the effects of climate change in the future (Copes-Gerbitz et al., 2020; Johnston, 2020; Dube, 2013). In addition, the promotion of indigenous techniques will encourage the involvement of more community members, and by extent potentially increase trust that the community will put into fire management techniques. Given that community based systems are more likely to be more sustainable and adaptable, the increased involvement will likely promote an even healthier ecosystem (Dube, 2013). Thus, the community and burning initiatives demonstrated in British Columbia and Australia can be adapted to improve Botswana’s policies for forest management.


This case study on wildfire management in Botswana highlights the importance of community involvement for both local people and ecosystems by providing livelihoods and increasing biodiversity as well as decreasing the severity of future fires. As wildfires intensify and climate change worsens, a more positive attitude toward active fire management and community involvement has come to light. Through the CBNRM program, benefits of community involvement such as reducing poverty and encouraging the sustainable use of resources have been emphasized. Although there have been significant efforts to involve local communities in wildfire management, very little traditional knowledge has been implemented or understood. Moving forward, traditional wildfire management practices as well as practices in places such as BC and Australia should be taken into consideration when developing new fire management plans.

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