Banning Fire in Mali

The justification for the government’s banning of fire in rural Mali in the 1980s is examined in terms of the perspective of the government and the perspective of the people, weighing the advantages and disadvantages on both sides. This evaluation focuses on whether or not the government of Mali was justified in such banning of fire in the 1980s.

Government Interest in Banning Fire in Mali

The main interest of the government in banning fire in Mali in the 1980s was to prevent the degradation of the natural environment.

The main argument of the government in banning fire in the 1980s was that the use of fire increases the likelihood of destructive fires that could ravage the savanna of Mali.

This argument was based on expert observations and opinions that indicate that the savannization of Mali is strongly linked to the use of fire by community dwellers, especially those in rural areas. In the perspective of the government, the banning of fire in rural Mali was an important step to prevent the transformation of the savanna zones into desert zones.

The government saw the banning of fire as a way of protecting the natural resources of the country. The banning of fire was crucial to maintaining the natural resources on which the people of Mali were dependent. The government was not simply interested in protecting the natural environment for the principles of conservatism or as an environmentalist entity; the government was interested in ensuring that the savanna remains a sustainable source of food for many of the country’s people.

People’s Interest against Banning Fire in Mali

The people who opposed the banning of fire in rural Mali were mainly interested in using fire as a means of cooking, driving away animals and clearing the land for agricultural activities. The people, prior to the 1980s, were already accustomed to using fire in these ways. Their lives were already tied to the use of fire for their daily needs and the use of fire as part of their livelihood activities. Even though the people recognized the dangers that came with the use of fire in rural Mali, especially in the savanna zones, they were not cognizant of the fact that their use of fire could lead to the detriment of the valuable natural resources of the country – the savanna, where livestock were grazed and where people were able to plant for food. In this regard, the people viewed the banning of fire as something that came with difficulty, as they had to look for alternatives for cooking in the savanna, for clearing lands and other uses.

Was the government justified in banning fire in Mali during the 1980s?

The government saw the bigger picture of using fire in rural Mali – – The government recognized the big possibility of the decline of the savanna as a result of using fire in rural areas, and the potential irreversibility of such decline. This means that the government understood the importance of fire in the daily lives or the rural community residents. However, the government also understood the problem of declining savanna zones.

In the utilitarian perspective, the government’s banning of fire in rural Mali was an acceptable action, especially when considering that the consequences of such actions benefitted the entire country. The banning of fire was not just for the sake of environmental protection, it was also for ensuring the maintenance of savanna zones as natural resources for the benefit of the people. Even though the needs of individual households to use fire for their daily activities were important, the needs of the country for ensuring availability of the savanna zones were more important. In this regard, the government was justified in banning fire in Mali in the 1980s.


  • Laris, P. (2004). Grounding Environmental Narratives: The Impact of a Century of Fighting against Fire in Mali. In W. Moseley & B. Logan (Eds.), African Environment and Development (pp. 63-85). Ashgate.

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