Traditional Fire Management



WALFA and the Fish River Project demonstrate that the reintroduction of traditional fire management practices can generate carbon credits and offer new opportunities for remote Indigenous communities to generate sustainable and meaningful incomes. These initiatives can also improve biodiversity, reinvigorate important cultural ties to country, improve food security and health, enhance human capital, and help communities adapt to climate change. Similar savanna landscapes and traditional management practices exist in parts of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America. In many cases these traditional fire practices have been interrupted, degrading cultural ties to country and resulting in broad, unmanaged, high-intensity and dangerous fire regimes. UNU, NAILSMA and the Government of Australia launched a project in December 2012 to help reintroduce traditional fire management techniques in these areas. This workshop will provide a timely opportunity for participants to identify the challenges this project faces in scaling up this mitigation solution and to participate in the implementation of this project.

Speaker Bios

Margaret Jacobsohn

(speaking on international perspectives on savanna fire management on behalf also of Dr. Bibiana Bilbao, Mr. Robin Beatty and Mr. Garth Owen-Smith)
Founding co-director, now trustee, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) Namibia. IRDNC, the NGO co-founded by Margaret and Garth Owen-Smith nearly 30 years ago, pioneered community-based natural resource management in Namibia. The little project has become a national award-winning program led by the Namibian Government, supported by more than 15 NGOs and involving nearly 100 community-based organizations called conservancies or community forests. Margaret’s interest is implementation, not research. For her work she has received the Goldman Foundation’s Grassroots Environmental Prize for Africa – co-winner with Garth Owen-Smith, and is a UNEP Global 500 laureate.

Sam Johnston

Sam Johnston is Head of the Traditional Knowledge Initiative (TKI). An Australian national, he has degrees in chemistry and law and is a qualified lawyer in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia. At the UNU Institute for Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), Sam works as Senior Research Fellow and his principal responsibilities are to provide strategic guidance to the Director regarding the research priorities of the Institute, develop new research activities for the Institute, and assist with fundraising efforts. Before joining UNU-IAS, he worked at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where he has held a variety of positions, including secretary of the second meeting of the SBSTTA, acting Principal Officer for Implementation and Communication, and acting Legal Advisor and Programme Officer for Financial Resources and Instruments. He also represented the Executive Secretary of the Convention at a wide range of diplomatic and academic conferences, including the United Nations General Assembly, Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization and the Global Environment Facility’s Participants Assembly. Prior to the Secretariat, Sam was the Jacques & Lewis Research Associate in the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge (U.K.), the legal manager at Société Générale Australia Ltd and a solicitor at a major Australian commercial firm of attorneys.

Joe Morrison

Joe Morrison is the Chief Executive Officer of NAILSMA. Both Dagoman and Torres Strait Islander, he has spent the last 20 years working with remote communities throughout northern Australia, firstly establishing local efforts to ‘care for country’ and more recently focusing on whole-of-north approaches. For the past decade, Mr Morrison has been advising Federal, State and Territory governments about Indigenous natural and cultural resource management, advocating for increased recognition as part of the reform agenda in Indigenous communities. He is the founding convenor of NAILSMA and is currently a member of the Federal Government’s Indigenous Advisory Committee. He has a BA in Natural Resource Management from the University of Sydney.

Dean Yibbarbuk

Dean Yibbarbuk is an Indigenous ecologist and elder with the Warddeken Rangers, Western Arnhem Land, and a Director of Warddeken Land Management. In these capacities, Dean has played a key role in the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project (WALFA), the first Savanna Fire Management project using traditional fire management practices together with scientific knowledge and research to better control the extent and severity of savanna wildfires and thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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