Uncontrolled fires threaten food security, claims NGO

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Relief Web 30th April 2018

Uncontrolled fires are threatening Fiji's food security, according to a local NGO.

Nature Fiji's Robin Yarrow says the country's dry season has been exacerbated by climate change, making the widespread rural practice of 'burn-off' to clear arable land potentially apocalyptic for Fiji's remaining forests.

Mr Yarrow says around 58 percent of the country is forested compared with over 90 percent in pre-European times. He says European settlers started the practice of burn-off in the 1830s to clear forest for farmland.

Nearly 200 years later and Mr Yarrow says fire is embedded in rural culture and being used more extensively than ever. He says it can permanently damaging soil structure which is often lost when the forest cover is burnt.

This soil then clogs waterways and damages reefs. In Viti Levu's west, burnt tree trunks were swept down waterways becoming battering-rams during recent flash-flooding caused by cyclones Josie and Keni.

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