The Australian government has recently approved new funding of AUD$ 500 000 (P4. 1 million) to help develop effective fire management systems.
On Wednesday this week, the Australian High Commissioner to Botswana, Graeme Wilson donated protective fire fighting clothing worth AUD$ 65 000 (P530 000). The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama received the donation. The donation is regarded as an important step of strengthening Botswana’s capacity to fight one of the natural disasters that have in recent years left devastating effects across the country.
According to Wilson during the next phase of the programme, in addition to further training in Botswana, Department of Forestry and Range Resources personnel will undertake short-term training secondments with their counterparts in Australia. “The evidence of the Botswana Fire Management Programme are evident with the number of fires down and seasonal fire teams in place,” he said. He said his government was pleased to see the continuation of this exchange of expertise. “Australia with its vast experience and expertise in tackling seasonal bushfires is very well placed to provide assistance to Botswana towards meeting this challenge,” said Wilson. Under the programme, North South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service has provided a range of technical assistance, training and fire fighting equipment to the Botswana Department of Forestry and Range Resources, particularly at Chobe, Ngamiland, Ghanzi and the Central Districts.
He also said that more than 70 members of the NSW Rural Fire Service have worked in Botswana over the past three years including more than 45 volunteers. He also noted that his government has also supported the first National Fire Management Conference for all district coordinators in Botswana in 2012. Moreover, the programme, which began in 2009, has seen 2 500 Batswana fire fighters benefitting through training. For his part, Khama appreciated the donation. He said the country has experienced devastating veldt fires which to date have devoured 15 million hectares of gracing land. “Today marks a day when we can start fighting fire properly,” he said. Since 2008, Australian government has supported 86 Batswana to undertake Australian Awards (Scholarships) to Australia. Botswana also benefits from Australia’s regional development assistance programmes, including the AUD$ 17.5 million (P143 million) SADC trans boundary water management programme.