§ Clare Short
It is reported that tens of thousands of hectares of natural forest have been razed by fires in the forest areas of Bale and Borana Administrative Zones. It is believed that the fires were started by local farmers burning land for local cultivation that escalated out of control. The Ethiopian Government sought donor help to combat the fires in February 2000. A number of donor countries who were well placed to address the problem helped form and deploy an International Fire Emergency Advisory Group. Donors, including DFID, maintain daily contact in Addis Ababa.
International experts travelled down to Bale and Borana to assess the damage and map out a strategy to contain the fires. Their findings were presented to the Ethiopians on 6 March. A US expert was brought in to head up the fire-fighting operation with support and equipment from South Africa and Germany. On 9 March, South Africa announced that it would provide a further 22 fire-fighters and other experts. We concluded that as the UK has 287W limited experience in fighting large-scale forest fires it was best for those with expertise and technical equipment to take the lead.