Mbabane: It has emerged that a total of E74 million has been lost due to fire incidences across the 59 Tinkhundla in the country.
This evaluation, done by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and the fire sensitive sector stakeholders has led to a convention meant to agree on the need of a Fire Damage Rapid Assessment. The widespread of the fire incidences happened in the period April to July 2019. NDMA Communications Manager, Wandile Mavuso, said the Agency has sought to understand and identify the causes of the widespread fire occurrence, the extent of damage and loss, the socio-economic and environmental impacts, as well as other related challenges, during the concerned period.
“The assessment was aimed at understanding the root cause and extent of the fire problem for informed decision-making, development of appropriate fire prevention methods and future mitigation strategies,” said Mavuso. Mavuso said data was collected in the 59 constituencies from August 1 – 16, 2019, including secondary data from selected identified organizations especially those whose infrastructure traverse communities.
“Sourcing of primary data for fire-affected households for the period April – July 2019 in all the 59 Tinkhundla used structured questionnaires consisting of both closed- and open-ended questions,” said Mavuso, adding that a team comprising 91 NDMA volunteers and 4 supervisors underwent a one-day training at Esibayeni Lodge on August 16, 2019 on the data collection tool and instrument.
36 163 hectors burnt
Mavuso said a total burnt area of 36 163 hectors was reported and of these, 19 869 hectors was cropland, both subsistence and commercial. The impact of fire within the country was felt as a number of livelihoods, water supply, the environment and biodiversity, infrastructure and production assets were severely affected and damaged. The communications officer mentioned that the majority of the fires were caused by acts of negligence.
“It is very difficult, if not impossible, to prevent wild fires because, besides the negative impacts of fires, fire also plays an important positive role in many Eswatini ecosystems,” said Mavuso, adding that NDMA with Disaster Risk Management (DRM) stakeholders initiated a number of campaigns during the winter season with an objective to raise awareness and to sensitize communities exposed to the risks of fire induced disasters.
E465 million loss to companies
The documented fires in recent history of the country is the August 2007 fire that swept through parts of the kingdom, engulfing as many as 300 homesteads, resulting in loss of human lives, livestock, destroyed food, crops and large swathes of commercial tree plantations. The fire raged for days, destroying about 20 280 hector of pine and eucalyptus forest, resulting in an estimated E465 million (US$45 million) loss to the companies.
“About 21100 livelihoods were put at risk from the 728 direct job losses and 4 368 indirect job loss incurred,” said Mavuso, adding that the raging fires also affected the Sappi Usutu Forests in Bhunya, resulting in approximately 4000 hectors of forests lost to the fire, representing about 7.5 percent loss of the forest plantation.
60 percent of burnt houses were one roomed
Mavuso mentioned that at household level, the results revealed damage and loss of shelter such as the destruction of a home or damage to personal goods. The assessment findings revealed that nationally, 60 percent of houses affected by fire were one rooms, 20 percent were single house with many rooms, 11 percent were several houses within the same household while 9 percent were other types of houses, like toilets and garages. “Results from the assessment revealed that 740 people were directly affected by the fires, including people who have suffered loss of property, food, injured people and deaths,” said Mavuso, while adding that the assessment found out that within these 740 people, 13 were injured, and 10 were hospitalized. People that died because of these fires were 19 with only 9 that could be retrieved as dead bodies, said Mavuso.
E4 468 223 worth of households burnt down
Mavuso mentioned that the total loss for households as a result of the devastating by fires totaled E4 468 223. These included the loss for houses that were either destroyed or damaged by the fire incidences. He mentioned that the Manzini Region suffered the highest loss with a total loss of E1 192 000. Lubombo and Shiselweni suffered losses of E1 192 000 and E1 114 000, respectively. The Hhohho Region was the least affected with a total impact of E680 023.
15-20 years to maturity
Mavuso mentioned that a commercial forest takes a period of 15-20 years to mature, placing the trees at a huge risk of being burnt by wildfires. Mavuso also mentioned that in the period of April to July 2019 fire incidents resulted to a loss of 612.5 hectors which is equivalent to E20 970 168. “These losses will affect the livelihoods and the economy of the country in the long run as it may result in shutting down of the forestry companies, leading to job losses,” said the communications officers.
Over E12 million worth of infrastructure lost
Mavuso said with regards to infrastructure and equipment for both household and institutions the total loss was quantified to be around E12 053 349.92, with the Manzini Region being the hardest hit with a total loss of E6 069 000. “Of this, E6 000 000 was from the Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) whereby wooden poles and houses were engulfed by fire,” said Mavuso, adding that the Shiselweni Region had the second highest total loss among the other regions with a total loss of E3 800 000, where PVC pipes and fittings were burnt down at the Eswatini Water Services Corporation (EWSC).
He said the Lubombo Region suffered a loss of E2 182 729.92, where an Eswatini Post and Telecommunications Corporation exchange building was gutted down, resulting to a loss of E2 000 000. The Hhohho Region suffered losses to the tune of E1 620.
E412 773 worth of crops burnt down
Agricultural production was also affected due to the recent fire incidences, with a total crop loss of E412 773, with the Hhohho Region recorded the highest loss of all, with a total crop loss of E300 723. The Manzini Region recorded a total crop loss of E53 300, while the Shiselweni and Lubombo suffered total crop losses of E41 350 and E17 400, respectively.
E83 620 worth of livestock burnt down
Mavuso mentioned that livestock and poultry production was also affected in the agriculture sector, with a total of E83 620 worth of livestock, including poultry production due to the recent fires nationwide. The Lubombo Region suffered the greatest loss, with a total of E59 800. Manzini Region suffered a loss of E12 200, while Shiselweni and Hhohho experienced losses amounting to E10850 and E750, respectively.
Table showing financial losses due to forest fires across three regions
|Region||Hectares Lost||Impact of Loss in (E)|
|Hhohho||524.1||18 002 696|
|Manzini||78.1||1 967 472|
|Shiselweni||10.3||1 000 000|
|TOTAL||612.5||20 970 168|
Table showing total of wildlife loss
|Region/Type of Wildlife||Quantity||Impact of Loss in (E)|
|TOTAL WILDLIFE LOST||30||327 000|