Scores of fires have burned this year on Tanzania’s steep slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest mountain.
Some experts have been less than thrilled with the attempt to control the blaze. In early September, the International Union for Conservation of Nature included Nepal in an “at risk” list for its devastating fire season, including the Himalayan Mountains. The group expressed “grave concern” over the growing effects of fire in the Himalayas.
Tanzania, which also has high treeline on the mountain, has experienced a more moderate fire season than Nepal. The government in July launched a fire suppression plan. It is now supporting community efforts to control the fire season, pushing up the mountain by coaching local communities on how to maintain mulching braziers and firewood.
The government also plans to seek more funding from private development partners to boost the effort.
The government plans to boost firefighting on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Ken, a local guide, said the fire season on Kilimanjaro was bad because the early summer rains failed to come and forest land became dry. He added that many, such as himself, tended to put on gloves and shovel wood in those conditions. “I feel bad that we are increasing deforestation and we are going to lose the forest,” he said. “We can’t say it’s negative because, when we clean the forest, we clean the water, we clean the people, and when we clear it, we don’t have charcoal.”
Many local people have been the actual clearing crew for the fires. They are beginning to fill the void that previously used to be covered by a forest. “There is no good alternative,” said Grace, a guide, adding that she is worried about the impact of the fires on the ecosystem and the future of the mountain. “Before we could fire it right here. Now it is too dry. We cannot fire it anywhere else. If we fire it, it’s a fire in everyone’s house.”
She says her family likes to share a firewood brazier. “I don’t have any charcoal in my kitchen,” she said. “I don’t have a chimney. It’s important for us to have a firewood brazier. I really struggle to save my food.”