by Mustafa Kurtulmuslu and Ekrem Yazici; April 2000
Ministry of Forestry, Atatürk Bulvari, 153, Bakanlikyar, 06100 Ankara, Turkey
In Turkey, forest degradation is the result of overutilization, forest fires, unsustainable forest management, the socio-economic problems of local forest dwellers, ownership and land tenure problems, converting forest land to agriculture and settlement and unsound legislation. Turkey is in the Mediterranean region and is mostly under semi-arid climatic conditions, with 7 million ha of forests being very sensitive to fire. In Turkey, nearly all forest fires are the result of human activities. In order to develop sound measures regarding forest fires, it is necessary to know what lies behind these human activities and how communities take an active role in forest fire management.
This study discusses the social aspects of forest fires, particularly community involvement in forest fire prevention and public policies affecting that involvement. The study assesses community involvement in forest fire prevention, control and management in the Çal and Bergama Forest District Directorates, where there is active participation of the local people, and results are compared with neighbouring forest district directorates that have similar climatic and ecological conditions. Results from the case study show that rural people participating in community-based fire management (CBFiM) have lower than average levels of intentional fires compared with national statistics. The rate of intentional forest fires in Çal is 12.1 percent and in Bergama 10.8 percent, while the national average for the last ten years is 14 percent (not including unreported fires). In addition, when villagers carry out early fire control interventions (without waiting for fire fighting teams to arrive on the site), fire sizes are smaller than the national average. Average fire sizes are 2.4 ha in Çal and 3.9 ha in Bergama, while the national average for the last ten years is 6.5 ha. This demonstrates the effectiveness of CBFiM. Both Çal and Bergama are thus very good examples of how the active participation of local people can increase the success of forest fire prevention and control measures.