Project African Wilderness (PAW)

Preventing Loss of Biodiversity

Fire Prevention Man made fires started deliberately, or accidentally, are a major threat to biodiversity at Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve, and to the population of ancient trees. They can affect the whole reserve each year, so we have made plans for a project: * To test new fire fighting procedures and systems and improve/create teamwork amongst PAW, the National Park game scouts and the local population. * To develop and deliver an education programme targeted at local schools, farmers and communities to reduce the instances of fires being started inside the reserve or on the reserve boundary. Whilst we have a current plan in place to tackle fires, we need funds to put our bigger ideas into action.

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  • AnimalsAnimals
  • Community Support & DevelopmentCommunity Support & Development
  • Education/Training/EmploymentEducation/Training/Employment
  • Environment/ConservationEnvironment/Conservation


  • Children (3-18)Children (3-18)
  • Older PeopleOlder People
  • Women & GirlsWomen & Girls
  • Young People (18-30)Young People (18-30)
  • OtherOther



Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve is home to many ancient trees , important in their own right and as part of a wider ecosystem, for instance 300 year old cathedral mopanes and 1000 year old baobabs. These trees, and more importantly the seedlings and saplings to replace them, are being lost to fires. By preventing fires from occurring, and tackling them as soon as possible when they do, this project aims to save Mwabvi’s trees and wider ecosystem. Trees prevent soil erosion and provide food and shelter to wildlife in the reserve . For instance, in the driest season when very little food can be found in the reserve, mature fruits provide nourishment for animals such as baboons. The mopane bark provides food for elephants in the dry season, and one of our aims is to bring elephants back to Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve. Preventing fires will provide immediate protection for Mwabvi’s trees, and in the long term, it will contribute to a larger strategy to conserve Malawi’s biodiversity. By incorporating this education programme into our extension programme, it is hoped that over time we can alter local attitudes and ensure that fire prevention becomes a normal every day activity in the dry season. This is a pilot project in that: * we need to find ways to reduce fires and help protect the biodiversity; * we want to find ways to work as a team with the local communities; * we want to build up our knowledge base by gathering knowledge using both hi tech GPS and local oral reporting. The project will allow us to test each in a ‘controlled’ fashion. The plan is based on practical experience over the past 2 dry seasons, local advice and the overall reserve plan prepared by specialist advisors: Work in the Reserve : Our target to complete before the 2009/10 wet season was achieved: * Constructing firebreaks to complement existing roads, and creating a useable water point at Mwabvi Gorge. This will also allow better access and visitor activity which will deter poachers, creating disincentives for starting fires and increasing the chance of earlier intervention. * Introduce more effective and rapid communications between PAW and the DNPW team, using new communications equipment. * Making/acquiring equipment for manual fire fighting. * Testing ideas with local people and then training in the reserve. Education/extension programme with local villagers : To run up to 16 months from start date. * Introduce the plan formally to the 3 Traditional Authority constituent groups/villages. * Training sessions in fire prevention and fighting for farmers. * Develop and deliver specific schools lesson around the impact of fire in the reserve. * Develop a community tree nursery to grow replacement stock for the most at risk species. * Jointly record the number and location of fires over time to monitor effectiveness of programme and impact of fires. The work in the reserve costs around £4500 and most has been completed, but we still need to build more roads and work with the villagers will cost around £1000 a year . If we can extend the core work now we can: * fight fires faster and reduce the biodiversity loss; * start a tree nursery with local school children; * reach more farmers and train them in fire management.