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2.4 West and East Sahelian Africa Sub-Region

The lowlands of the west and east Sahelian region are dominated by fire-adapted savannah ecosystems. The country reports of Sudan and Sénégal show that large areas of savannah and open forest are affected by wildfires every year. A recent satellite image shows the extent of fire scars in Sudan and neighbouring countries (Figure 2-9).

Source: NESDIS/OSEI NOAA-14 POES AVHRR LAC, displayed with image interpretation at the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) website (GFMC 2000a).

Figure 2-9 Satellite image showing numerous heat signatures (red) and smoke (light blue) generated by savannah and agricultural fires in southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Congo Democratic Republic on 13 December 2000.

The mountain regions seem to be experiencing increasing fire pressure. Between 1997 and 1999, several reports from Tanzania and Kenya revealed increasing fire problems in the high-elevation mountain forests of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. In 1997 more than 5 000 ha of forest and peatland between 2 800 and 4 000 m elevation burned. Since then a total of 21 000 ha of mountain forests were damaged by fire, according to reports as of March 1999. At that time Tanzania’s Ministry for Tourism and Environment called for international assistance to overcome the problem of increasing wildfires that are devastating the biodiversity resources of the mountains.

Extensive wildfires affected Ethiopia in early 1984 and burned a considerable forest area. The area affected by forest type is summarized as follows (see also country report):

• High forest: 209 913 ha.

• Bush land: 41 785 ha.

• Plantation forests: 2 600 ha.

• Bamboo forest: 33 316 ha.

• Woodlands: 20 584 ha.

In early 2000 the countries of the Horn of Africa suffered a severe drought and numerous large fires. In late February Ethiopia called for international assistance that was channelled to the country through the assistance of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC). With the help of German and South African fire specialists and the recruitment of nearly 170 000 local personnel from the Armed Forces and villages the situation was brought under control more than six weeks later (Goldammer 2000, Bekele and Mengesha 2001). For the first time in Africa satellite images were used to facilitate the planning of fire suppression actions (Figure 2-10).

Courtesy: NOAA.

Figure 2-10 DMSP scene of the Bale region and Borana, Ethiopia, 10 March 2000

(upper left corner 9°N, 38°E; lower right corner 5°N, 42°E) made available for fire suppression planning during the fire emergency 2000 in Ethiopia (Goldammer 2000).


Bekele, M. & Mengesha, B. 2001. Forest fires in Ethiopia. Int. Forest Fire News (in press).

GFMC 2000a.

Goldammer, J.G. 2000. The Ethiopia fire emergency between February and April 2000.

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