Fire Ecology, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 2
Indigenous Fire Use to Manage Savanna Landscapes in Southern Mozambique
Author: L. Jen Shaffer
Prescribed burn regimes for protected areas in southern Africa are often based solely on modeling of historic data and onsite experimentation. Most rural communities in this region continue to rely on fire to manage natural resources for subsistence needs, yet relatively few detailed studies of local fire knowledge and practices exist. The long history of anthropogenic fire in southern Africa suggests that traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of fire could provide further insight into location-specific anthropogenic contributions to fire-savanna interactions. This study used an ethnographic approach to investigate how local people think about and manage fire as part of their daily activities in two rural communities in southern Mozambique. Residents use fire for a range of livelihood activities and identify both controlled and uncontrolled anthropogenic fire sources. Fire regimes are presented for five common livelihood activities including frequency, seasonality, area, and type of habitat burned. Comparisons between historic and contemporary fires revealed decreases in the number of controlled burns and consequent increases in the size and number of wildfires, but no changes in the purposes for conducting controlled burns or the methods people used to conduct burns. Community fire regulations aim to reduce personal and communal property destruction, as well as protect locally valuable biodiversity. The results highlight the importance in accessing indigenous fire TEK for understanding anthropogenic contributions to fire regimes. Furthermore, they demonstrate that despite different worldviews, indigenous and western fire experts share a common goal in maintaining regional biodiversity.