Recognition for Australian fire-fighters supporting an African fire management campaign
10 September, 2012
Crew leaders being trained in fire management skills by NSW Rural Fire Service trainers, Botswana. Photo: Brian Graham
NSW Rural Fire Service crew supervise crew leader training in Maun, Botswana. Photo: Brian Graham
Two Australian fire-fighters have been honoured for their work in leading an AusAID-funded program which has improved bushfire management practices in Botswana.
On August 28 2012, NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Group Manager Russell Taylor and Superintendent Brian Graham received the 2012 Laurie Lavelle Award, recognising individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to Australasian emergency services in any one year.
The pair have been instrumental in delivering AusAID’s Botswana Fire Management program, designed to help the Government of Bostwana as the land locked country in Southern Africa struggles to contain widespread bushfires.
'The number and intensity of the fires in Bostwana was increasing in 2010, with a lot of fires spreading through the Chobe region from Zimbabwe, as well as poacher fires threatening the national parks and grazing lands,' Brian Graham said.
AusAID engaged the RFS to undertake a needs analysis in Botswana’s existing fire management plans and to train locals in rural fire management. More than 70 members of the NSW RFS have worked in Botswana over the past three years, including around 45 Australian volunteers.
To date, 2,500 Tswana fire-fighters have been trained and 50 trainers qualified through courses delivered by the program. AusAID also supported the first National Fire Management Conference for all district coordinators hosted in Botswana in 2012.
'In 2012 there have been less fires and seasonal fire teams are in place, so I can see the benefits of the changes we’re making,' said Brian Graham. 'The program is really about building human capacity and strengthening disaster response.'
By strengthening community-based management and coordination of fire responses, the program is helping to sustain food production, ecosystems and livelihoods in rural Botswana. In the north, where agricultural production is low, fire management is also helping to protect income-generating activities such as tourism.
The Botswana Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, the Honourable Kitso Mokaila, will travel to Australia in September 2012 and plans to visit the NSW RFS to personally thank them for the success of the program. 'Following Mr Mokaila’s visit, we plan to bring fire-fighters from Botswana to NSW during the next two years to learn about the benefits of aerial fire-fighting and hazard reduction, and to witness one of the biggest volunteer fire-fighting forces in the world in action,' Brian added.
'The NSW RFS is internationally recognised as a world leader in fire management and we are committed to sharing our considerable experience in fighting bushfires with nations that do not have the benefit of advanced fire prevention, fighting and management systems such as ours.'
AusAID at work in Africa
Last Reviewed: 10 September, 2012