openquote The project started in 2007 in KwaMemela. At first we knew nothing about FireWise. From 1900 – 2007 we lost livestock, lives, properties and especially horses to fire. Then we came across information about Working on Fire in a magazine called Vuk’uzenzele. Our farmers’ association contacted them and asked for help with fire problems. We wanted to stop the fires that made the community poor. WoF gave the community FireWise education, and taught us how to educate the community. They set up FireWise Teams with people from all ten wards, and they met with all stakeholders and elected a committee. They worked very hard. Now the teams maintain community infrastructure and are well respected. People saw the benefits and wanted to learn more. By 2010-11 fires were reduced by about 75%. This was wonderful. We have nobody who says, “Today’s not my day for working”. If there is a fire, they run, firebeater in hand, knapsack on back. Why? They got what they want from FireWise – help, knowledge and tools. FireWise maintains the land around the schools, crèche, churches and the road: they don’t hesitate. They used to meet once a month, now they meet weekly. They have the job of “chasing the cat from the fireplace” (which is an idiom meaning it is our responsibility to overcome poverty). Communities had no food before, now they have food. They have training on first aid and disaster management. We are preparing a campaign to “Keep KwaMemela Clean”. The main hazard in summer is lightning; two houses were recently hit and burnt down.closedquote

Absalom Mazibuko (“The Grandfather of FireWise”)



openquote Now our stomachs are always full, there is no more hunger because of this project. The project has created more jobs, especially for women. People now have enough food for today and can keep something for tomorrow. We had alien weeds and trees that were drinking the water that was important to people and livestock - our area had become a desert. Once the weeds were gone, the natural grass started growing again, and there was more water in the springs. We started a FireWise insurance scheme. The team members learnt how to be business people, they are happy and appreciate the project. We have built relationships with forestry companies, we have had meetings with them and we work together to solve problems. They run to assist us in fire season.closedquote

openquote Things have been tried out in KwaMemela before being taken to other areas. We need to say thank you to them, they have shown us that poor communities want to volunteer, if it brings benefits to them, even if the cat is sleeping in the fireplace. Volunteering is an important part of FireWise. The stipend (money for work) has added a new element, it has made things better. We can now give some money for some work. But there are strings attached: we have to report on how the money is spent, and there are rules about how it can be used. closedquote

Val Charlton (Kishugu NPC Managing Director)