Sharing experiences on reducing tropical wildfires by listening and learning from communities

Sharing experiences on reducing tropical wildfires by listening and learning from communities

General - 06 December, 2022

‘There is a need of active involvement of indigenous and local communities (and their knowledge), local government, smallholders and other stakeholders in developing and implementing effective wildfire risk reduction strategies, policies and practices as extreme wildfires increase in numbers and intensity’. This is one of the main recommendations from the session ‘Fire-smart landscapes as a promising approach for effective adaptation and mitigation’ during the Global Landscape Forum Climate: Frontiers of Change in November 2022 in Sharm El Sheik.

Read more about the session

The session, organized by Tropenbos International (TBI) and the Instituto Boliviano de Investigacion Forestal (IBIF), provided opportunities to share and learn from integrated fire management and fire risk reduction experiences in the tropics. Presenters and panelists provided practical examples of integrated fire management approaches that take into account wildfire risk and climate change.

Watch the session here

Sara Ramirez of TBI opened the session and Nataly Ascarrunz, IBIF’s director was the moderator. Felix Hoogveld (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) gave an opening address, where he expressed the commitment of the government of the Netherlands towards supporting efforts to significantly reduce the risks of wildfires worldwide, in the context of global climate change. This commitment gave rise to the TBI Fire Smart Landscape Governance Programme in 2020.

Kwame Appiah of Tropenbos Ghana presented the wildfire situation in his country. He stressed that working with local communities had to be the way forward, in order to fully understand traditional perspectives and include landscape actors in developing effective fire management strategies. Facilitating participatory multistakeholder platforms in that sense is crucial. In addition he highlighted the need for effective national coordination and supportive policies.


Rikki Dank, director of Gudanji For Country, spoke eloquently and powerfully of the experiences of Australian Aborigines regarding wise fire use. Importantly, these age-old fire practices were prohibited by the new settlers, and this led in part to the high-fire risk situation that there is today.

As a special guest, the panel was honoured with the presence of Magin Herrera, Bolivian vice-minister of the Environment (Autoridad plurinationcal de la Madre Tierra). He reinforced the message from other panellists about the urgent need to learn from indigenous and traditional practices. At the same time, he spoke about the Bolivian government’s decision to include forest fires in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), emphasizing the importance of connecting fire management policy and practices on the ground, within national climate mitigation and adaptation frameworks.


Finally, Carlos Mendez Vallejo (vice-president of UNFCCC working group II and director of the Ecosystem Lab and global change), spoke about the importance of encouraging governments to incorporate wildfires and fire management into NDCs, as well as reasons for the failure of some fire suppression policies. He also highlighted the need to incorporate the role of fire in the food security of landscape stakeholders.

Together the presenters underscored the need to work with multiple stakeholders, especially indigenous and peasant communities, to develop local fire management plans and link these to national policies and regulations to reduce fire risk, and in particular to NDCs. This message is echoed within the edition of Tropical Forest Issues: Towards fire smart landscapes that was launched during the session. This publication includes a collation of 25 articles including more than 20 case studies from across tropical America, Asia and Africa, and others that explain the importance of the ecology, management and concepts related to fire management.


Read the background white-paper here

This session was organized as part of the Fire-smart landscape governance programme, part of the Working Landscapes programme, financed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is managed by Tropenbos International, along with partners in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia and Uganda.

All photos are from © GLF (