To Burn or not to Burn? The History behind the Construction of a New Paradigm of Fire Management in Venezuela through Interculturality

Local Actions of National and Regional Impact


  • Bibiana Alejandra Bilbao Universidad Simón Bolívar/USB, Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Caracas 1060, Venezuela. Apartado 89000
  • Adriana Millán Centro de Investigación y Transferencia Rafaela/CONICET – Universidad Nacional de Rafaela/CIT RAFAELA UNRaf-CONICET, Santa Fe, Argentina. CP: 2300
  • Hebe Vessuri Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México/UNAM, Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental/CIGA, Morelia, Michoacán. CP: 58190
  • Jayalaxshmi Mistry Royal Holloway University of London/RHUL, Department of Geography, Egham, Surrey TW200EX, United Kingdom
  • Ruth Salazar-Gascón Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica/COICA, Quito, Ecuador
  • Rosalba Gómez Centro de Investigaciones en Ecología y Zonas Áridas, Universidad Nacional Experimental Francisco de Miranda/UNEFM, Coro 4101, Venezuela



Indigenous fire knowledge, integration of scientific, indigenous


The presence of a savanna-forest vegetation mosaic in the Gran Sabana, Canaima National Park (CNP), has been more than an academic controversy since the 1980s through to the 2010s in Venezuela. Scientists, Park administrators and officials from institutions devoted to protect the Caroní river basin within the limits of the Park, argued that the presence of savannas under a tropical rainfall regime that could support humid forests was due to the fire practices used by the local Pemón Indigenous communities. This misconception justified applying fire suppression policies, aimed at putting out all types of fires in CNP, especially the “compulsive burning” (thus so called by some scientists) by Pemón people in forest areas. This paper describes the initiatives, pursued for more than 20 years, to consolidate intercultural and participatory fire management in the CNP, Gran Sabana, which evolved as result of several participatory action-research projects coordinated by academics, and supported by national and regional public development institutions. The inclusion of Pemón Indigenous communities, firefighters, public officials, and academics in field research and joint experimentation, as well as in debates and dialogues on socio-ecological issues relevant to CNP, allowed the development of articulated knowledge and actions that were the foundations of a new paradigm of fire management and strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Since 2015, these actions have been further extended to neighbouring countries of the Guiana Shield in the Northern Amazonia and other regions of Latin-America, with the collaboration and support of Venezuelan, British and other European institutions.

Biografia do Autor

Bibiana Alejandra Bilbao, Universidad Simón Bolívar/USB, Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Caracas 1060, Venezuela. Apartado 89000

Profesor Titular, Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela


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