Unesco Green Citizens

Waru Fire Program

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Project begin: 02/03/2009

Martu people believe that preserving biodiversity in their country is intimately linked with ancestral practices. To protect their desert ecosystem, Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) a Martu organisation decided to reinstate the pujiman fire regime in the Great Sandy Desert, Australia.

Leading organisation: Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa
The country where the team is based: Australia
Covered Countries: Australia
Theme: Biodiversity, Local and Indigenous Knowledge
Sub-themes: Cultural diversity, Environment, Knowledge sharing, Natural resource management, Participatory/citizen science
Tag: #Women #Youth
Selection: 2021
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For thousands of years, Martu used fire to manage their land in the arid Great Sandy Desert. This diversified the spinifex grasslands, resulting in a patchwork of fire scars and vegetation regrowth that sustained biodiversity and the traditional Martu way of life.

However, in the 1950s and 60s, Martu started moving off their lands and stopped traditional burning. This had a devastating effect on the desert ecosystem and lead to the extinction of numerous species. Higher fuel loads also resulted in larger, hotter wildfires.

For the Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) team, it was vital to work with local communities and draw on their ancestral practises. Created in 2005, this Martu organisation has developed a series of cultural, environmental and social programmes to help manage the land, build a viable economic model and offer young people more opportunities.

Combining ancestral knowledge and modern technology

Their Waru (fire) programme shares fire expertise between generations, while also training rangers from within the community. The knowledge of water and cultural sites acquired by the elders has been mapped using modern navigation equipment. The rangers are also equipped with robust vehicles and helicopters for aerial burning.

The KJ team hopes to train more and more Martu rangers and continue enabling local communities to look after their land through a combination of traditional and contemporary techniques.

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