UFH Scholar visits Namibia for joint Mobile Veld Fire Detection prototype testing

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Prof Amon Taruvinga, an Associate Professor at UFH’s Department of Agricultural Economics, recently returned from Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) where he participated in a series of field trips to test the accuracy of a mobile veld fire detection prototype – a joint research project between the two institutions.

The prototype uses satellite data obtained from the Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS) to detect and monitor fires in the study sites in Namibia and South Africa.

The research project is jointly led by Prof Taruvinga and Dr E Chikohora from NUST.

According to Taruvinga, during the 12-day visit, the prototype was tested in different regions of Namibia and recorded a high accuracy.

“We are happy to note a high accuracy rate of 90% for our mobile veld fire detection prototype across all regions we visited in Namibia. This gives us the confidence to consider replication phases across seasons and in other African countries in the future if we manage to get further funding,” he said.

According to the researchers of this project, while there are apparent efforts toward managing veld fires, it comes as a concern that in Southern Africa, the role of local communities in fire control has weakened and veld fires have grown to be a major threat.

The researchers further stated that the current systems and technologies to share veld fire information have several challenges. These include; being unable to detect burning fires in real-time especially in the forests, poor to almost missing veld fire local alerting systems, and malfunctioning local veld firefighting communities.

The Professor’s visit to Namibia coincided with the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA) 59th Conference hosted in Namibia. One of two of his postgraduate students (Ms S Jonga) who accompanied him on the visit presented two papers at the conference.

“It was interesting to note that the UFH Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension had 10 out of 62 papers accepted for presentation at the AEASA 59th Conference which translates to 16% of the total papers. The postgraduate students were exposed to presenting conference papers at an international level and had an opportunity to network with other students, researchers and industry players from Africa.”

“I also managed to connect with various researchers and industry players for potential future collaborations,” said Prof Taruvinga.