Fire, fire, fire!! It seems that this year especially, our poor planet is having a tough time with them, with unusually dry spells and hellish temperatures.
In Malawi however, and probably in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, there are fires everywhere. And this happens year after year after year with devastating consequences, not least of which are the destruction of hundreds of thousands of saplings.
And before someone says that fires are part of the natural cycle of life here, they are not. There are no naturally occuring fires in Malawi. There are no electrical storms as occur in Australia or California, all the fires in Malawi are man-made, either on purpose or accidental but man-made.
Malawians are not used to thinking that fires should be prevented, or that they represent any kind of danger, so long as they do not occur near their homes so 99% of the fires are left to spread causing widespread damage across the country.
And so I come back to firebreaks.
One of the best means to help control a fire is a firebreak, meaning a cleared strip of land that the fire cannot cross due to lack of anything to burn. And this is the time when we start making them.
The country has gone from the depths of winter to surprisingly hot days and warm evenings in the space of a few days and in those few days, one can see fires dotted around the countryside: villagers burning the stubble in their fields, some burning bricks, and in the space of those few days, it is like a hazy film has been dropped onto the country. We can no longer see Mulanje, we can not even see the mountains around Blantyre and there is a constant smell of burning in the air, enough to make us slightly edgy - enough to make us want to activate the firebreaks now now.
The Forestry Department and the Timber Co-Operatives have started and we, with the help of the local communities and our football teams will be doing our bit to protect the Plateau as well.