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Why is Africa also aflame?

It is not only the Amazon that burns, the fires also ravage the African forest and yet nobody talks about it. This indifference is a scandal on social networks. Right or wrong ?

It is a satellite photo of NASA widely used by several US sites that has put a spotlight on these fires in Africa. On these images from last week, we see that the 22nd and 23rd of August precisely, the Angolan forest burns much more than that of Brazil. During these 48 hours, 6900 fires were recorded in Angola, nearly 3400 (3395) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And only 2127 in Brazil in the Amazon. That's five times more on the African continent than in South America. On the same picture we see that there is fire too in Tanzania and Zambia. 70% of forest fires occur in sub-Saharan Africa according to the US Space Agency.

Yet, many African policymakers and scientists dispute the rapprochement between the two continents

This is the opinion among others of the climatologist Arona Diedhiou of the IRD (Research Institute for Development), who says: attention to amalgam! We certainly deforest in the Ivory Coast for cocoa or in the Congo Basin, whose lush forest is considered the second green lung of the planet, for the not always regular exploitation of tropical species, but the fires that occur in Africa are without comparison with what is happening in South America. Brazil destroys its forest more than the DRC. In the Amazon, he continues, there has been a spectacular jump in fires in recent months. This increase is very worrying, it is here that there is urgency.

These African fires are also of a very different nature from those that blaze the Amazon

Every year, at the beginning of the rainy season, African farmers use the ancient practice of burning to fertilize or clear arable land. In Kenya it is said that burning the forest brings rain. In fact, says Arona Diedhiou, the burning savannah regrows in a season as if by magic. Which is not the case of the forest. That will take decades, even a century to regenerate. This is the second misunderstanding maintained by this satellite photo: it shows thousands of red dots testifying to fires but without information on the type of vegetation concerned.

What are the consequences of these fires?

In the short term they are initially harmful to the health of the inhabitants. And they are obviously counterproductive in the long run, for biodiversity, soil fertility. This forest which is consumed thus contributes to the degradation of African soils. This weighs heavily on the economy, soil degradation averages 9% of GDP, in some African countries this is up to 40% according to the latest IPCC report on the link between land and climate.

To respond to the wave of outrage aroused by Africa in flames, President Macron spoke of an aid for the continent equivalent to that promised by the G7 for the Amazon: 20 million dollars that Brazil has just declined . Money why not, but the essential is elsewhere. According to Arona Diedhiou, what needs to change are habits. And to quote the "4 per 1000" initiative promoting smart agriculture to restore land while capturing carbon. A true revolution of mentalities, it takes time and human resources rather than money.

►In brief

At the G7 France announced yesterday an agreement with the United States on the GAFA tax .

A tax passed in July that provoked anger and therefore the threats of Donald Trump. The compromise found in Biarritz avoids France retaliation for its wine exports to the United States. Without questioning the immediate application of this tax on digital multinationals. Paris undertakes to renounce it as soon as an international agreement is reached on the taxation of internet platforms.

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