Fynbos Fire Project active in the Overberg

A R30-million grant for a project that aims to help manage fires better in the fynbos biome was launched at an event at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in June. The Fynbos Fire Project seeks to increase fire awareness and prevention of unplanned fires, while capacitating those involved in fire management.

Reinard Geldenhuys, Head: Fire and Disaster Management at the Overberg District Municipality, will sit on the projectís steering committee. Geldenhuys has been involved in the planning of the project from the outset, and will represent the Western Cape Provincial Wildfire Workgroup. Also invited to be on the committee is the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Interim Coordination office representative and Flower Valley Conservation Trust Executive Director, Lesley Richardson.

According to Geldenhuys, the Fynbos Fire Project will focus its efforts on land users, fire fighters, scientists, conservationists and the insurance industry, in order to test new fire management activities. He says a portion of the funding has been made available for a pilot project in the Overberg region to find more cost-effective ways of working together in fire planning and management through the Fire Protection Associations (FPAs).

Through the project, FPAs will be expanded, while FPA members will be assisted to be properly equipped to plan and deal with fire. Landowners are encouraged by government to belong to their local FPAs. This allows for collective fire management across farms.

The project will also aim to improve the quality of weather data, to ensure better fire danger index forecasting and early fire detection information. Regions will be mapped to pinpoint fire risks, so that mitigation measures can be put in place. Through the project, land users and communities will also receive information to help better understand fire planning and management.

A number of stakeholders involved in the project will add co-funding. The Global Environment Facility is providing the R30-million, but other partners include the FFA Non-Profit Co (also the manager of the project), the SA National Department of Environmental Affairs, the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Landscape initiatives like ABI are being brought in to encourage local participation by landowners and farmers. ABI will arrange an information session in early August for interested parties.

For more information on the project, contact Reinard Geldenhuys on 028 425 1690, or email rgeldenhuys@odm.org.za.

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