Fire Sparks Conservation Movement in South Africa

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A Community Working Together

The January 2000 fire led Preston and others to create the Ukuvuka Operation Firestop campaign, a model program designed to both create job opportunities and to unify the diverse communities in and around the city and in rural areas, to conserve mountain parkland and encourage more nature-sensitive urban planning.

The Ukuvuka campaign is well on its way to fulfilling its mission, project officials say.

Areas with the most serious infestation have been targeted, and unemployed workers from local communities adjoining the mountain park are hired to clear acreage. The Ukuvuka workers are trained to identify and destroy the offending alien vegetation. They also receive training in fire fighting.

Close to 2,500 acres (1,000 hectares) of alien-infested land has already been cleared.

The country's defense and forestry departments have also cleared large tracts of land under their jurisdiction and joined them with the Cape Peninsula National Park. Regulations have been imposed requiring property owners with land adjoining the park to clear their land of hazardous vegetation. This has the side benefit of providing additional job opportunities for those trained under the program.

Community education programs teach residents of poor rural settlements land-use practices that will make them less vulnerable to wildfires.

With the additional help of firebreaks, prescribed burning to reduce fuel loads, erosion control, and similar measures, authorities hope to prevent similarly destructive fires in the future.

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