Satellite Image Reveals Agricultural fires in Central Africa

Fires have spread across the majority of the landscape in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite image using the VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) spotted fires across Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo Landscape. In the past week, the Global Forest Watch website, with data from the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite reported about 61,661 fire alerts in Angola. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the other hand, about 102,738 VIIRS fire alerts were published in the same week, from June 18 to June 25.

At this time of the year, fires of this magnitude are quite frequent as farmers, in preparation for the new agricultural season, clear old crops by burning them to prepare the land for new plants. This method involves burning the leftovers of old crops in an attempt to get rid of shrubs and unwanted grass on the land. This action restores nutrients to the ground and enables the growth of edible plants in the ensuing planting season.

This form of agriculture called “Slash and burn” is mostly practised in regions abundant with grasslands and rainforest. It is common in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and northern South America. The slash and burn ritual is economical for farmers, and it dates to 12,000 years ago. Its economic value stands as it eliminates the need for large farming equipment for land clearing.







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