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Farmers' Kraal - The agony of climate change and wildfires

2023-09-26  Otniel Hembapu

Farmers' Kraal - The agony of climate change and wildfires

As the dry season begins to make way for increasing heavy winds, local farmers in both commercial and communal areas have and continue to battle with mysterious wildfires, which pose a serious threat to pastures and animals. 

We are currently living in the larger context of climate change, which is a crisis that is here to stay and could get even much worse in the foreseeable future. 

Climate change is an existential threat to the lives and livelihoods of farmers and ordinary people, and as evident, we are now seeing and feeling the impact of a climate crisis at such a personal level. 

The growing worrying impact of climate change is visible in our everyday lives, especially for farmers. The declining rainfall and longer drought periods are all hallmarks of a climate crisis right in front of us.

And as can be expected, diminishing rainfalls and prolonged droughts are usually the prime ingredients for uncontrolled wildfires. 

In fact, recent studies have shown that the number of days per year with high to extreme temperatures are projected to rise even further worldwide, as a result of low rain and increased dry seasons.

However, with proper preventive measures in place and effective strategies for handling wildfires, farmers can avoid or at least minimise the dangers of wildfires.  

One of the best ways to mitigate the effects of wildfires is to set up clearings around your farm and make sure you also remove any excessive vegetation, such as dry grass, bushes, and fallen leaves. These firebreaks or clearings will act as a barrier and will in turn slow down the spread of fire.

The established firebreaks must regularly be inspected and maintained in order to ensure they are effective in the event of a wildfire outbreak. 

Another effective way to fight wildfires is to introduce controlled and regulated burning of the field during the cooler months, as this practice helps remove extra dry vegetation and reduces the fuel load for potential wildfires later on. But this practice requires expertise and caution. 

It is also helpful to maintain clear lines of communication with your neighbouring farms, local authorities, and fire departments to report any signs of wildfire eruptions, as that could save everyone unwanted losses and damage to properties.

If you can afford it, it is equally advisable to always have firefighting equipment readily available on the farm, including fire extinguishers, water pumps, hoses, metal rakes and shovels. Also, equip your farmworkers with basic knowledge and skills on how to prevent and fight wildfires. 

By adopting preventive measures and implementing effective management strategies, farmers can overcome the nightmare of wildfires. But importantly, I believe it is high time for a mindset shift from fighting wildfires towards mitigating the risks of extreme events that are causing the fires to worsen.

Until next time we meet in the kraal, bye-bye!

2023-09-26  Otniel Hembapu

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