The Société des Mines de Fer de Guinée (SMFG) is happy to announce it is organising with the Center for Management of the Environment of the Nimba and Simandou mountains (CEGENS) and the PAPFor conservation project to support installing firebreaks to project the Nimba Mountains in the dry season of 2022-23.

For many years, SMFG has been a primary partner to the local people of the Nimba Mountains (Lola Prefecture) and of CEGENS. Since 2003, it has invested significantly in tangible, sustainable development activities for the surrounding villages, providing more than US$6 million, or around GNF 60 billion, in support.  These expenditures – which include support for health and responding to epidemics, clean drinking water and public hygiene, education, road infrastructure, community infrastructure (e.g., youth centres, markets), income-generating activities for producer groups, and cultural and sports-related activities of local people – are 100% voluntary.  They come from SMFG’s good will and desire to integrate itself into the social and economic fabric of the prefecture.  SMFG seeks the well-being of local people, working in full compliance with Guinean laws and requirements, and going above and beyond to achieve the mutual well-being of all citizens of Lola.

SMFG also supports conservation of the Nimba Mountains Biosphere Reserve, above all through its management authority, CEGENS.  For example, SMFG has supported building CEGENS’ material and technical capacities (construction, supply of water and solar electricity for its local headquarters, training in research, monitoring and human rights), field-level conservation actions such as patrols, involving CEGENS’ staff in the company’s research initiatives, and cross-border collaboration between the three countries sharing the Nimba Mountains, among other activities.Because controlling bush fires is the shared responsibility between local authorities, villagers and local companies, SMFG has supported CEGENS to install firebreaks around the Nimba Mountains every year since 2008 (apart from during pandemics).  CEGENS hires and mobilizes village workers to clear and burn the vegetation on the sides of the road which runs along the boundary of the Nimba Mountains Strict Nature Reserve and the Mining Perimeter, in areas where fire could jump from villagers’ land onto the mountains.  SMFG provides fuel and field allowances, and pays the village workers overseen by CEGENS.  CEGENS uses the opportunity to visit local villages, raise awareness of the dangers of uncontrolled bushfires and urge people to prevent them.This collaborative partnership has succeeded in reducing destructive fires on the mountain by around 40% since 2008, that is, anthropogenic fire has been avoided in two out of five years on average.  But the objective is that no man-made fire burns the mountains and that all neighboring villages as well as authorities, environmentalists and local businesses all benefit from the multiple services provided by the Nimba Mountains.

Technical Notes on Bushfires in the Nimba Mountains:

Fire is an essential tool in the production systems of farmers and herders around the Nimba Mountains.  Farmers use it to prepare fields for cultivation and herders to rejuvenate pasture. Fire is used also for cooking, charcoal production and a variety of other activities.

However, it represents a significant threat when it is poorly controlled:  it can burn fields, tree plantations, houses and ravage the Nimba Mountains which, legally, are strictly protected area. When protected, the mountains ensure the quality of the water in the rivers which originate in the mountains and on which the local population depends.  Fire on the mountains also harms the fauna and flora of the Nimba Mountains Strict Nature Reserve, which is a world heritage site, and it degrades the mountains’ cultural and aesthetic values.

Fire is a natural phenomenon at Nimba.  Lightning can strike during thunderstorms in the ‘stormy seasons’ of October-November and March-June, igniting natural fires.  Because these fires occur at times of high humidity, vegetation burns randomly and not very hot, without significant damage.

The fires that occur between December and February, however, originate from human causes, not natural ones, and burn very hot, incinerating everything they reach, leaving only ashes. Such anthropogenic fires are caused by multiple sources:

  • Farmers who burn their fields without taking adequate precautions (e.g., only burning during periods of no wind, installing firebreaks in advance, ensuring their fire goes out completely),
  • Herders who set fire outside the season prescribed for burning pasture,
  • Charcoal makers who do not completely extinguish their fires,
  • Carelessness of smokers or those cooking on open fires,
  • Poachers who enter the Strict Nature Reserve and deliberately set fires or do not extinguish their campfires, and
  • Arsonists who deliberately start fires.

Although several ministries’ laws regulate the use of fire, CEGENS is the lead authority in the Nimba Mountains responsible for protecting the Strict Nature Reserve from fire and controlling its use in the Buffer Zone.