LRG hosted a panel of speakers who explored the impact of Fire and Water on African Landscapes, on Friday 8 December 2023 at 13.30 GMT. The recording is available to watch above.
Representing and covering the north, east, south and west of the continent, our speakers were:
Dr Blal Adem Esmail, Post Doctoral Researcher, Institute of Geography, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany. His research focuses on planning nature-based solutions of and green infrastructure for sustainable urban transformations with special attention to water challenges. His talk will be focusing on water challenges and land dynamics in the context of Eritrea.
Professor (Emeritus) Aziz Ballouche, University of Angers, France. His research focuses on environmental and landscape dynamics on different time scales in terms of the role of climatic variations and anthropogenic processes in the dynamics of savannah landscapes in Sudano-Sahelian Africa. His talk will be around the long-term perspective at different time scales to question bushfire as a dynamic factor in West African savanna landscapes, focusing on the role of fires in relation to climate change and human activities between the Holocene and Anthropocene.
Gaby Hansen, Lecturer at the Department of Architecture, Planning and Construction, Namibia University of Science and Technology. Her research focuses on Dryland Nature based solutions as an approach to co-create climate adaption planning in arid regions of Namibia. Her talk will focus on “A Brown Approach to conceptualise a performative network of urban public space in semi-arid cities: the case of Windhoek, Namibia”.
Dr Manel Ouaret Ladjouze, teacher-researcher at the Department of Architecture, Université de Béjaïa, Algeria. Manel will be focusing on the natural and cultural landscapes of Algeria with links to water dynamics and hints about the current wildfires in North Africa that took place earlier this year.
Africa being one of the most growing populations and rapidly changing landscapes, we welcome you to discover more about the African continent through the lens of water and fire and their dynamic relation to the continent’s diverse and continuously changing landscapes. Together we will explore the current landscape research about Africa with a number of landscape scholars focusing on landscape changes in the African context. We will critically question the notion of ‘green’ landscape in such context, the anthropogenic induced landscape changes and their impact on the various ecosystems encompassing humans, wildlife, and natural systems, understand the cultural landscapes associated with such complex dynamics manifested as distinct landscape meanings, indigenous practices and colonisation influences, to finally discuss the way forward in the face of climate change consequences, social and economic challenges.
African landscapes embody diverse ecosystems and geographical features that have witnessed the ebb and flow of civilizations. From the expansive savannas of the Serengeti to the formidable peaks of the Atlas Mountains, Africa’s topography reflects the continent’s geological and cultural complexity. The continent’s landscapes are a testament to the resilience of both nature and its people, from the dense rainforests of the Congo Basin to the arid expanses of the Sahara Desert. However, these landscapes face multifaceted challenges, including deforestation, desertification, water scarcity, the impacts of climate change and most recently wildfires.
Water has always been the essence of life on this planet for both nature and people. Recently, water scarcity, water disasters, and extreme weather events (e.g. floods and droughts) rank the top global risks in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report. These risks are usually closely interlinked, for example water scarcity is exacerbated by the effects of climate change, urbanisation and demographic patterns, economic growth, among others. The African continent is one of the most prone to water scarcity challenges due to increased water demand with the continuous population growth, urbanisation, and climate change impacts (OECD, 2021). Thus, water strongly threatens the social and economic development of Africa (United Nations University et al., 2022), and is gradually leading to transboundary tensions and conflicts among the African countries, especially around river and lake basins (Mahlakeng, 2023). In addition, water scarcity is altering and threatening the relation between wildlife habitats and people (Facheux, 2023).
Fire, as the inherent opposite of water, has always been a part of the earth system for billions of years but recently fires are largely started by human ignitions intentionally for land management or by accident and most recently as a result of the extreme heat events causing massive uncontrollable wildfires. Africa is known for being the continent with the longest continuous history of human use of fire (Archibald, Staver and Levin, 2012) and the most recent to experience disastrous wildfires on its Northern parts (Radford, 2022) .
Archibald, S., Staver, A.C. and Levin, S.A. (2012) ‘Evolution of human-driven fire regimes in Africa’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(3), pp. 847–852. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1118648109.
Facheux, C. (2023) Water scarcity threatens Africa’s people, wildlife, and wild lands, African Wildlife Foundation. Available at: https://www.awf.org/blog/water-scarcity-threatens-africas-people-wildlife-and-wild-lands (Accessed: 2 November 2023).
Mahlakeng, M.K. (2023) Water Scarcity and Conflict in African River Basins: The Hydropolitical Landscape. 1st edn. London: Routledge. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003366379.
OECD (2021) Water Governance in African Cities. OECD (OECD Studies on Water). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/19effb77-en.
Radford, T. (2022) Africa hit hardest as wildfires burn 4.23 m square kilometres per year | PreventionWeb. Available at: https://www.preventionweb.net/news/africa-hit-hardest-wildfires-burn-423-m-square-kilometres-year (Accessed: 2 November 2023).
United Nations University et al. (2022) Water Security in Africa: A Preliminary Assessment. UNU-INWEH. Available at: https://doi.org/10.53328/MUNM8683.
Image: An aerial view of a wagon wheel grazing system with a central watering point on a rural farm, South Africa