[Humanitarian aid in Bolivia] Forest fires and support to VIDECI with the Fire Tracking Tool

On 26 April, SDC held an on-line meeting to present a summary of Switzerland’s successful collaboration with Bolivia during the last forest fire season, and the lessons learned from working with the Fire Tracking Tool. The experience laid the foundations of a common interest and a shared vision and opens the way to a definition of the next steps.

The event began with welcoming remarks by Edita Vokral, Ambassador of Switzerland in Bolivia. The Ambassador explained that Switzerland has been supporting Bolivia on forest fires since 2019, with technical assistance, equipment, medicines and the Fire Tracking Tool (FTT). She also re-confirmed Switzerland’s solidarity and commitment through its technical assistance from specialists in Bern, the Humanitarian Aid Hub based in Lima and the use of the FTT tool.

Fire Tracking Tool (FTT)

She went on to highlight the quality of the coordination and cooperation between VIDECI and SDC through a Collaboration Agreement between the two agencies, which they signed in the 2020 forest fire season.

Captain Carlos Mariaca, Bolivia’s Vice-Minister of Civil Defence (VIDECI) thanked SDC for collaborating on the response to the fires in Bolivia. Mr Mariaca summarised the work during the 2020 fire season, when Bolivia used the FTT tool and how it can support the future.

Captain Mariaca stressed the value of the use of the FTT tool during the 2020 fire season in the departments of Beni, Santa Cruz and La Paz, which enabled the authorities to make decisions to anticipate and/or respond to forest fires.

He stressed the importance of continued access to the tool, as it is necessary for making the right decisions for disaster risk reduction, and highlighted the advantage of inter-operability between the FTT and the DEWETRA platform, which improves data analysis for deciding to issue warnings and to respond to fires.

He concluded by saying that VIDECI looks forward to further cooperation, for consolidating the results and institutionalizing the FTT tool.

In turn, Benjamín Fischer and Rodrigo Villavicencio gave a brief presentation on the mandate of the Lima Hub, and a summary of SDC’s GIAR team’s work in forest fire response in Bolivia. He also spoke about the part SDC played in the Understanding Risk Panel, which highlighted the importance of discussing diversified strategies, using new technologies and innovations, and combining these with local fire-fighting knowledge.

GIAR Support to SDC’s Humanitarian Aid for Forest Fires

The 2019 forest fires were among the most severe in the last 10 years in Bolivia, and VIDECI requested support from SDC Humanitarian Aid’s Rapid Intervention and Support Group (GIAR). The Group helped set up a Crisis Room, provided over two tons of equipment and above all developed the ad-hoc tool for monitoring hot spots in “near-real” time, using satellite data combined with VIDECI data. The “Fire Tracking Tool”, was very useful for planning ground and aerial operations and for monitoring fire fighting.

VIDECI showed great interest in institutionalizing the tool through follow-up activities, which were held up by the political unrest at the end of 2019 and the onset of the pandemic in March last year. However, at VIDECI’s request, SDC re-enabled the tool during the 2020 wildfires, deployed a GIAR specialist to support VIDECI in fine-tuning and implementing the tool, and put the tool in place in the Santa Cruz Incident Room.



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La Agencia Suiza para el Desarrollo y la Cooperación (COSUDE) es la entidad encargada de la cooperación internacional dentro del Departamento Federal de Asuntos Exteriores (DFAE). Con otras oficinas de la Confederación, la COSUDE es responsable de la coordinación general de la cooperación para el desarrollo y de la cooperación con los Países del Este, así como de los programas de ayuda humanitaria suizos.