Fighting Fire with Fire

WALFA Project
WALFA project.

Indigenous peoples have been using fire to manage the landscape for thousands of years. Their management of otherwise uncontrolled late dry season fires encourages new growth and protects important places and resources. The West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project uses an innovative mix of customary indigenous fire management techniques and contemporary technology to manage uncontrolled fires in Northern Australia while reducing carbon emissions.

Supported by ConocoPhillips, the project offers economic, environmental, social and cultural outcomes for local indigenous community members across 17,574 square miles, an area about the size of Belgium. WALFA supports over 200 indigenous jobs per year, conserves rainforest vegetation, protects local wildlife and rock art sites and allows cultural aspects of land management to be passed down to younger generations. In 2015, 33 Savanna burning projects across Australia were successful in selling offset contracts — all using methodology pioneered by WALFA. The project reduces CO2e emissions released through wildfires and helps to protect local wildlife. It also supports indigenous peoples’ return to the land by providing sustainable employment opportunities on traditional land.   

Participation in WALFA continues to provide the catalyst for socially beneficial programs that enhance the local community’s ability to manage the natural environment and maintain cultural ties.