Beyond The Blaze
Forbes Africa|December - January 2021
With shrinking glaciers and raging fires, climate change is impacting the diverse ecosystem on Africa’s highest mountain in more ways than one.
Inaara Gangji

IN MID-OCTOBER, THE Kilimanjaro conservation area in Northern Tanzania, home to the highest free-standing mountain in the world and UNESCO World Heritage Site, was ravaged by a deadly forest fire across 90sqkm of pristine green earth.

Although the inferno was reportedly the result of a careless fire lit to cook food, it required an army of volunteers and firefighters to contain it.

Together, they spent tireless days engulfed in smoke, ashes and uncertainty to save flora and fauna and the mighty mountain that millions of people in both Kenya and Tanzania rely on for subsistence.

The lush alpine vegetation in the shadow of the majestic 5,895m Mount Kilimanjaro has had humanity in awe for centuries. But the fire was not an isolated incident. Environmental experts opine that the effects of climate change will continue to be seen on the mountain, regarded as one of Africa’s most diverse and unique ecosystems.

“We observed on Kilimanjaro, that the climate is getting drier and therefore, these fires are becoming more frequent… [but] all the people are thinking about are the glaciers on Kilimanjaro,” says Hemp Andreas, a researcher from the University of Bayreuth in Germany, who has been studying the vegetation on the mountain since the late 80s.

“Decreasing rainfall patterns recorded on the ground in the area also confirm this,” says Mateso Said, a researcher at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania, very close to the mountain. Said studies the impact these changes have on local communities.

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