Hundreds of bright red hotspots form a speckled swath across the green lands of Central Africa in early December, 2010, marking the annual outbreak of fires that occur during the dry season in this region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on December 9, 2010.
The countries that contain hotspots are, from west to east: Cote d’Ivorie, Guinea (to the north with one hotspot), Burkin Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and Chad. To the north, the arid land of Niger remains fire-free. Most of the hotspots are found in vegetated areas, colored in green, and relatively little fire burns in the tan, dry lands.
The burning of bush has been cited as one of the basic “man verse the environment” issues in this region. Burning is embedded in the cultural values and traditional farming systems of the people, and is used to clear agricultural fields, to improve grazing land and for hunting of game animals. Cigarette smoking, charcoal burning and palm-wine tapping are also sources of bushfire. As bushfires increase, however, the effects on rural livelihoods and on the ecosystem are becoming increasingly extensive and damaging.
On December 6, 2010, three days before this image was captured, the Ghana News Agency announced that two hundred and thirty-four anti-bushfire volunteer groups had been established in towns and villages in Sunyani Municipality (Ghana)to assist fighting brush-burning and other human activities that could cause bushfires. In addition, the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) reminded people that the Municipal Assembly’s bye-laws against the use of naked fire on the farm during the 2010/2011 farming season came into force on December 1 this year, and warned that the Assembly would not tolerate recalcitrant farmers or groups who ignore the laws.