Traditional clearcutting got out of hand

Now, in January 2023, you can smell burnt wood everywhere when you are in South Sudan or northern Uganda. Even if you fly over South Sudan with a small plane (we fly with the MAF), the landscape will largely disappear. These fires are caused by humans with often disastrous consequences for nature.

What is going on? The traditional arable farming system in South Sudan and in many other countries in the world is a form of clearcutting. Each arable farmer cuts down a piece of forest and sets fire to the felled trees. This combustion releases ash, which makes the soil fertile. In addition, the environment where people live is burned clean. By burning clean you ensure that no snakes or dangerous insects come into your house, that is the idea. And then the main reason for setting fire to the area: to obtain beautiful new grass. Grass is of great importance in South Sudanese culture. Mainly for constructing the roofs of the houses (tukus). Grass grows very well on burnt land and it becomes nice and strong and long.

Old traditional way of clear-cutting

The traditional clear-cutting by setting nature on fire is a system that has existed for hundreds of years. South Sudan is very sparsely populated compared to many countries. But a lot has changed compared to the past. People now live closer together, often in a kind of strip development along the roads. Nature has also been damaged too much over the years. Every fire causes insects, snails and other animals to die en masse. In addition, it often happens that a fire gets too big and gets out of hand.

All in all, the fires cause a lot of problems. Biodiversity is being affected, large trees are becoming rare, small animal species are becoming extinct and the rains are absent.

The rainy season starts in South Sudan from March. The rainy season will soon bring an abrupt end to the burnings. From 2024 we are dealing with El Ninja. Then not only will the dry season become drier, but also the wet season will bring less blessing and more misery.

El Ninja

Traditional clear-cutting has always helped the people of South Sudan enormously. It is part of the way of life, but the question is whether this way will be helpful in the coming dry years of El Ninja. We hope and pray that the coming rainy season will be good for the country and for the beautiful people of South Sudan.

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