Working on Fire 20th Anniversary Fire Symposium Presenters

Online Symposium Cards

Trevor Abrahams is the Managing Director of South Africa’s largest wildland fire management resource, Working on Fire. Trevor is also the Project Coordinator for the Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture, responsible for implementing the Working on Fire program on behalf of the South African government.

With a force of 5300 firefighters stationed across 200 bases across the country, the Programme’s activities range from fire management planning, detection, prevention and suppression to dispatch and coordination and community fire awareness education.

A thought-leader on climate change and its impact on wildfire activity, and one of the foremost voices on wildfires in Africa, Trevor was invited to present a paper at the International Association of Wildland Fire’s Fire & Climate 2022 Conference in Pasadena, California in the United States.

His review of the conference and details of his presentation were subsequently the subject of a national television interview on the SABC News Channel.

Trevor has also led WOF teams internationally in deployments on three of its five deployments to Canada.

Trevor obtained a Commercial Pilots licence from the FAA and also worked as a flight instructor in the USA. He later established and served as the CEO and Commissioner of the South African Civil Aviation Authority between 1998 – 2003, and he is now Chairman of Kishugu Aviation, which – over the past 19 years – has invested some R250m to develop an aerial capacity to support Working On Fire.

Between February 2015 and March 2016, Trevor was the Secretary General, XIV World Forestry Congress, overseeing the planning and successful hosting of Africa’s first World Forestry Congress in Durban in September 2015. This conference involved some 4,100 delegates from across the globe.

Trevor has also served as advisor to national government ministers (Trevor Manuel, Alec Erwin and the late Sibusizo Bhengu).

He also worked as an Associate Professor in the United States in New York City – at Broome Community College and at the State University of New York .

Trevor is also the former National Director of the SACHED Trust and the Secretary for Africa at the World University Service in Geneva, Switzerland.

He holds a Master’s degree in Sociology from the State University of New York, and Honours and Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Cape Town.

His interests include scuba diving, golf and sports shooting.

Online Symposium Cards
Kevin is currently Chief Forecaster: Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) at the South African Weather Service (SAWS), a position he has held since 2008. The DRR division at SAWS was previously termed “Forecasting”. The name change to DRR underscores the fact that the roles and responsibilities of SAWS require adaptation to a world which is undergoing rapid climate change and global warming. New weather-related hazards, such as marine storm surge and heatwaves are emerging, while traditional weather warnings also require a fresh approach. SAWS recently implemented Impact Based weather warnings, being one of the first weather agencies internationally to adopt such a change. Moreover, SAWS is working ever more closely with Disaster Management structures, at a national, provincial, and local level. Kevin has a long association of working with a variety of research groups in relation to Fire Danger Indices in the context of the NFDRS (National Fire Danger Rating System). Since the year 2000, there has been ongoing collaboration and interaction between SAWS and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), to investigate the implementation of new Fire Danger Indices within a South African domain. Historically, models such as the US Forestry Service (USFS) Model as well as the grassland version of the Australian McArthur (FFDI) Index were tested but were found to be unsuitable for domestic use. The empirically developed Lowveld Fire Danger Index (LFDI) remains popular and in daily use countrywide in South Africa, with SAWS routinely publishing 3-Day FDI maps daily, across a variety of communication platforms. Recently, SAWS and CSIR initiated daily assessment of the well-known Canadian Fire Weather Index (FWI), as a possible candidate to either replace or augment the current FDI model in South Africa. Kevin is passionate about all forms of severe and extreme weather, continually striving to better understand such phenomena. He is particularly interested in severe storms and especially supercell thunderstorms. His qualifications include a BSc (University of South Africa), MSc: Meteorology (University of Pretoria) as well as a 4-year Diploma and Higher Diploma in Meteorology (Tshwane University of Technology). Kevin is married to Andrea, an attorney with her own legal practice. They have a son, Adrian, who is a Data Engineer. Interestingly, the whole family counts UP as their alma mater. The Rae family live in Lynnwood, Pretoria and have a deep appreciation for the diversity of South Africa’s fauna and flora, regularly undertaking trips to the Kruger National Park. Kevin is also a keen birder.
Online Symposium Cards
Dr Christo Marais stepped down as Chief Director: Natural Resource Management Programmes of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environmental (DFFE) on 1 August 2021. Until then he was responsible for the Working for Water, Working on Fire, Working for Wetlands, Working for Ecosystems and Working for Forests Programmes at a national level. The operational functions under his authority included the valuation of services, the development of natural resource management models, the development of interdepartmental, institutional, and public private partnerships and the related contractual arrangements between parties. His history of involvement in natural resource management includes invasive alien plant control, mountain catchment management, integrated wildland fire management, indigenous forest, and protected area management, dating back to the beginning of his career in the 1980’s. He has been involved in the development of economic rationale for Working for Water and its strategic and operational policies since inception. This has translated into broadening the scope from invasive alien plant management into the suite of integrated natural resource management programmes that are operational today. Common to all these is the centrality of employment creation and economic return on investment through rehabilitation of ecological infrastructure and delivery of ecosystem services, contributing to employment creation and enhancement of economic resilience. Christo has been instrumental in quantifying the opportunities for employment creation in the ecological infrastructure and delivery of ecosystems services market. This work is foundational in the resourcing and development of the sector. He has played a strong leadership role in the negotiation and unlocking of resources, establishing turnkey international partnerships, as well as in the operations of the Working for … programmes and the development of operational & institutional models. He is widely known for his ability to create the bridge between science and implementation while creation of jobs by establishing a platform for scientists to undertake valuable and often ground-breaking research. He is currently co-owner and Director for the consultancy firm PraxisNR and an associate of ASSET Research, an NGO and Public Benefit Organization aimed at the development of capacity within the field of environmental and natural resource economics and ecological restoration. The most significant work he has done since stepping down as Chief Director was the development of a Value Proposition for Biodiversity Stewardship in South Africa. The value proposition highlighted how stewardship supports key government strategies and demonstrated how biodiversity stewardship benefits and supports protected areas, ecosystem restoration and sustainable use of biological diversity. It included an assessment of the cascade of benefits that support the Biodiversity Economy – the direct and indirect economic returns and the many social benefits they bring, as well as the contribution to South Africa’s development, to climate resilience and disaster risk reduction.
Online Symposium Cards
Haritiana Zacharie Rakotoarinivo is a programmer at LLandDev (Land, Landscape, and Development Research Lab), responsible for software, application, and web development. As the developer of the REA-FMRC website, he collaborates closely with the scientific team to ensure the website is regularly updated and functions seamlessly.
Online Symposium Cards
Kim Connors is the Executive Director of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Born in the province of New Brunswick (NB) on Canada’s east coast, Kim is entering his 42nd year of service with the Canadian wildfire community, serving in two provincial programs and now in his 13th year as Executive Director at CIFFC. Kim is actively involved with the Canadian wildland fire community, assisting the agencies as they face modern challenges such as climate change, and its effects on the wildland fire management programs. Under direction of the Canadian community, Kim has led the CIFFC team in its evolution to a strategic and pro-active organization focused on meeting resource demands of fourteen Canadian fire management programs, and most recently, leading the expansion of CIFFC’s mandate to include prevention and mitigation under the recently acquired FireSmart Canada program. Kim is actively involved with international affairs through, and in association with, the Government of Canada. Kim is an active participant with the UNISDR Wildland Fire Advisory Group, International Fire Aviation Working Group, the North American Forestry Commission’s Fire Management Working Group, and the International Liaison Committee for the Global Wildland Fire Conference series.
Online Symposium Cards
Ida Herdieckerhoff is currently a PhD candidate in Environmental Policy at the University of Eastern Finland. Since 2019 she has been an active member of the Responsive Natural Resources Governance-Research Group and is also part of the MAKUTANO research project. Her academic achievements also include a Master of Laws from the University of Cape Town and a Master in Social Sciences from the University of Eastern Finland. She has extensive research experience from South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania where she focuses on natural resource governance. In her current research, she focuses on participatory mapping as a means to support community-based fire management in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.
Online Symposium Cards

I started my working career forester with the Dept. Of Forestry after qualifying as forester from Saasveld in 1988.

  • Act as training centre manager 1996-1999 at Platorand training centre for SAFCOL in Sabie.
  • Lecturer in Fire Management at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) George Campus (Saasveld) since 2000 where I am the current HOD OF THE Forestry Department (Forestry, Wood Technology and Veldfire Management programmes)
  • Holds teaching and HR qualifications and acquired a master’s degree in Fire Management at NMU in 2012.
  • Championed the development of the Higher Certificate in Veldfire Management that was launched in 2014 at NMU.
  • Organiser of the Veldfire Management Symposium (13 to date)
  • Ongoing involvement in veldfires include:
  • Ad-hoc research.
  • Presenting short courses in veldfire management.
  • Writing articles for popular technical magazines.
  • Veldfire investigation and management consultant.
  • Editor of the “Fire Manager’s Handbook on Veld and Forest Fires, Strategy, Tactics and Safety – South African Edition.”
  • Taking part in technical talks addressing fire issues on RSG radio station (Agri-forum)
  • Present papers at national and international conferences on the topic of fire management.
Online Symposium Cards
Electronic Engineer with a Ph.D. in Methods and Technologies for Environmental Monitoring. Adjunct professor at the University of Genoa. Since 2018, teaches the course “Wildfire Risk Assessment and Management” in the master’s program “Engineering for Natural Risk Management.” Head of Wildfire & Forest biodiversity conservation sector at CIMA Research Foundation, competence center of the Italian Civil Protection Department for floods and wildfires risk. Responsible and coordinator of research and development activities for the wildfire risk assessment and management. Over 20 years of experience in the field of environmental engineering, particularly in designing and developing predictive wildfire risk models at regional, national, and international level. Expertise in early warning systems for wildfires, technologies for simulating wildfire behavior, and information distribution services. Involved in the design, development, and ongoing maintenance of the RISICO wildfire hazard prediction system used by the Italian Civil Protection Department since 2003 to support the creation of the national wildfire forecast bulletin. Experience in forecasting and monitoring extreme events at a European and global scale within the ARISTOTLE-eENHSP service, supporting the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC).
Online Symposium Cards
Prof. John Francis Kessy is currently working at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania at the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Tourism. He has a PhD in Forestry obtained in 1998 at Wageningen Agricultural University in Holland. He has Master degree in Management of Natural Resources attained at the Agricultural University of Norway in 1992 and a Bsc Forestry degree of Sokoine University of Agriculture attained in 1989. His areas of specialization and interest include resource economics, community forestry, sustainable management of natural resources, organizational development, strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation. He has vast experience in developing strategic planning and M&E documents for the government, government agencies, NGOs and the private sector. His interest in forest fires is in areas of community engagement, development of guidelines and action plans for effective community actions against forest fires.
Online Symposium Cards

A graduate forester with 47 years’ experience in forestry, agriculture, and business. Dave Dobson has developed a wide range of expertise in forestry enterprise development, afforestation project management, forestry due diligence, forestry valuations, fire investigations and forestry forensic investigations. He has served on a number of forest industry boards.
He was part of a two man team that negotiated and purchased two wattle extract factories from Mondi resulting in the establishment of NTE Co Ltd. He was also instrumental in negotiating with re-insurers and setting up SAFIRE Insurance Co Ltd.

His key experience includes:

  • Serving as Vice-Chairman of SAFIRE that specialises in short term and forestry and related insurance. He also Chairs the Company’s Risk and Nominations Committees.
  • Chief Consultant for the development of a Timber and Furniture Hub in KZN, undertaken for the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs
  • Consultant for a study into the Public and Private Sector Development in the Forest Products Industry in Southern Africa, commissioned by the African Forest Forum, based in Nairobi.
  • R&D: Developing composting techniques for wattle bark spents and the establishment of Fibregro Products.
  • Expert Witness assignments for spread of fire, contract disputes and timber theft as well as undertaking a number of quantum assessments for spread for fire insurance claims.
  • Developing the DCF mode used by SAFCOL to value their biological assets.
  • Biological Asset Reports and Peer Review of same.
  • Forestry forensic investigations relating to theft, fraud and spread of fire.
  • He currently serves on the National Committee developing Forestry Valuation standards for South Africa.


  • University of KwaZulu Natal: 2004 MBA (Top Student Award)
  • University of KwaZulu Natal: 2002 Diploma in Management 
  • Stellenbosch University: 1978 BSc Forestry Honours BSc. Forestry (Hon)
  • Stellenbosch University: 1976 BSc Forestry BSc. Forestry 1976


  • Member of the South African Institute of Forestry. Membership number 0177


  • Forest Finance and Valuation, Stellenbosch University 2015
  • International Forestry Valuation, Stellenbosch University 2018
  • Wild Land Fire Origin and Cause Determination, Dynamic Incident Management (Pty) Ltd. 2021


  • Dobson, D. 2004. A Survey amongst Growing Media Producers in the United Kingdom with the View
    To Establishing Distribution Channels for Fibregro Exports. Thesis: Masters in Business Administration.
    University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
  • Dobson, D. 2008. A Foresters Handbook. Information Resource for Emerging Entrepreneurs.
    Department of Economic Development KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
  • Dobson, D. 2014. A Guideline for Rural Communities to be Successful in the Forest Sector. Running
    A Charcoal Business. Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Pretoria, South Africa.

I am married to a lovely lady Gill who is an accomplished artist, have two married children Matthew and Melissa and have been blessed with three grandchildren. In between I jog with my dogs in the Worldview plantations round Hilton.

Online Symposium Cards
Currently employed as a Senior Manager: Conservation Management in the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa. Employed in Kruger as the Savanna fire ecologist for SANParks based at Scientific Services in the KNP, in 2001. Focused on using fire as a management tool in ecosystem management, developing fire policies, implementation plans and decisions supports systems for various protected areas. In 2015 Ms Govender moved to Biodiversity Conservation in the KNP and now oversees the implementation of the following programs, rehabilitation (dam removals, erosion and alien plants), sustainable resource use, wilderness management, fire and the Skukuza plant nursery. Mrs Govender is a co-chair of the Southern African Fire Network, serves as the Fire Protection Officer for the Greater Kruger Fire Protection Association and is a Research Associate at Nelson Mandela University. Approximately 20 years of experience as a savannah fire ecologist in South Africa, mainly burning in the Kruger National Park and with Working on Fire. Ms Govender has a Masters in Zoology from the University of KwaZulu Natal and is currently pursuing a Phd at Witwatersrand University, working on the SavFIRE (Savannah Fire Ignition Research Project).
Online Symposium Cards

Abigail is a PhD researcher at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, UK. She is affiliated with the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society, and is funded by the Grantham Institute. She is also a committee member of the British Ecological Society’s English Policy Group where she works on government consultations and organising events on biodiversity-related challenges. Her research focuses on tropical savanna ecology and fire management strategies across African protected area landscapes to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss, increase long-term carbon sequestration, and promote resilient local livelihoods under future climate change and anthropogenic pressure. Her work takes a social-ecological systems and historical institutional approach to understand how past and present policy, management, and environmental processes impact decision-making and future systemic change. In 2022, Abigail spent six months working across the Tsavo Conservation Area, Kenya, researching equitable fire management strategies. She is currently building a social-ecological systems network to model the impacts of future climate-socioeconomic scenarios and fire management interventions in African savanna-protected areas on wildfires, savanna health, and local livelihoods, as well as on more than 60 systems variables. Previously, she led the environmental technology module on the Green Economy MSc at Bournemouth University, and continues to lecture on community-based natural resource management and participatory research methods at Imperial College London.

Online Symposium Cards
Tahintsoa Gaston Hedwigino, a young agricultural engineer who obtained his master’s degree in environmental sciences in 2018 from the Department of Water and Forests at the University of Antananarivo’s School of Agronomy. He is currently a researcher at the Regional Eastern Africa Fire Monitoring Resource Center (REA-FMRC), a regional Sub Sahara Africa Wildland Fire Network that serves Madagascar and 13 other East African countries for early warning information on active burning, fire danger and burned area monitoring. He is an expert in geomatics (geographic information systems and remote sensing) and works specifically on fire science and policy.
Online Symposium Cards
Angel Goldsmith is a current PhD student in the Geography Department at Kings College London under the supervision of Prof David Demeritt and Dr Adriana Ford. Also, an Early Career Researcher ECR at the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfire, Environment and Society. Mr Goldsmith attained his undergraduate degree at Nelson Mandela University in Forestry Management and his MSc degree in Forest Sciences from Stellenbosch University . He is passionate about wildfire management, particularly operational research in wildland Urban interface wildfires, wildland fuel dynamics and fire behaviour. His favourite animal is the mighty crocodile.
Online Symposium Cards
Ms. Nokuphila Buthelezi serves as a Project Manager in the Biodiversity Management Department at eThekwini Municipality. Holding a Master of Science degree in Environmental Science, she plays a pivotal role in implementing large-scale ecosystem restoration programmes, such as the Fire and Invasive Species Control (FISC) programme. Her work focuses on restoring ecosystem functionality and enhancing the well-being of communities within the eThekwini Municipality. Ms. Buthelezi enjoys collaborating with local and international researchers through various partnerships that eThekwini Municipality has formed with institutions of higher learning. Aside from her professional interests, she is passionate about the outdoors and travelling!
Online Symposium Cards
Nothando Teddy Ngobeni, a young black female interested in understanding the behavior of fire in a savanna ecosystem under evolving fire management approaches and climate variability, and the ecological consequences of those changes. Nothando received her Diploma in Nature Conservation (2020), Advanced Diploma in Nature Conservation (2021) and BSc in Ecology (2022) from the University of Mpumalanga, South Africa. She is currently enrolled for MSc in Nature Conservation at the University of South Africa and works as a fire junior researcher at Working on Fire. Her responsibility as a junior researcher is to collect data, capturing and analysis of data and post fire monitoring. In addition to her professional achievements, Nothando is known for her community involvement with high school learners and undergraduate students. Nothando is motivated by the love for learning and succeeding as she strives to become an outstanding and successful woman in today’s society. She is a team player with great interpersonal skills and also adaptable to any environment. Outside of her career, Nothando enjoys outdoor activities. She can often be found hiking and bird watching.
Online Symposium Cards
Nicolene is an experienced Business Continuity Management Specialist with more than five years’ experience in developing, maintaining and auditing business continuity management programs for clients and within her organisation. She has a strong background in enhancing business continuity by focusing on training, awareness and getting buy-in from all levels of management. Striving to ensure that plans add value to a client`s environment and not just be a static paper-based program.
Online Symposium Cards
  • 10 Year SANDF
  • 12 Years with Dräger (Service Technician,
    Application Specialist, Product and
    Marketing Manager)
  • Responsibility: Emergency & Rescue Services
Online Symposium Cards

Johann “Savage” Breytenbach is the general manager of the Free State Umbrella FPA, a position he has held since September 2017, and founding Chair of the Mangaung Fire Protection Association (MAFPA) the first district Fire Protection Association in the Free State Province.
In August 2012, a mega wildfire devastated Savage’s community. The inability of local structures to effectively deal with this disaster combined with the lack of fire management knowledge and capacity in local communities to manage their wildfire risk and the inefficiency of local response to wildfire incidents motivated him to pursue the improvement of rural community resilience against wildfire disasters. His passionate pursuit to improve community resilience established keystone strategic partnerships enabling the practical implementation of Integrated Wildfire Management (IFM) in the Province highlighted by the following milestones:
• Development of wildfire management training programs for agrarian rural communities in collaboration with the Montana DNRC.
• Establishment of the Provincial Wildfire Forum
• Development of standard operating procedures and best operating guidelines for wildfire management in the province.
• Institutionalization of the Incident Command System (ICS) in the Free State Province.
• Formation of the Provincial Wildfire Incident Management Team
• Establishment of the Provincial Wildfire Response Task Team
• Development and implementation of the Free State Wildfire Management Framework.
As the general manager of FSUFPA he is championing the implementation of effective, sustainable, and inclusive integrated wildfire management practices on a local, regional, and provincial level.
He considers each successful activation of the Provincial Wildfire Response Task Team by the Free State PDMC as well as the marked improvement in wildfire resilience of numerous Free State and Northern Cape communities as personal highlights.

Online Symposium Cards
Louise Wessels is the Manager of the Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association, also known as the goFPA, a position she has held since it was established in 2015. Louise is also the Chairperson of the Western Cape Umbrella FPA. She received a B. Com degree from the University of Stellenbosch and an Honors degree from the University of Johannesburg. Prior to joining the goFPA, she had spent much of her career in the private sector, working for the likes of Ernst & Young, PWC and other private businesses. Louise is an expert in making a braai fire. Thus, it seemed appropriate for her to bring her skills to the goFPA team, initially as part of the Global Environment Facility-funded FynbosFire project. Since then, her role has grown, and she is now responsible for the overall management of the goFPA. She has brought her business, project management and communication skills to this FPA, and these have been vital in building trust with the landowners who became members of the goFPA. As a result, the goFPA today enjoys member representation covering 59% of the Overberg. While her role entails coordination at wildfires, the task of preventing wildfires through fire prevention and management is even more important. You can also trust her to take ownership – even in stressful situations – a feature that comes naturally to her.
Online Symposium Cards

Dr Pieter Olivier is a director at M.A.P Scientific Services (MAPSS) and is passionate about using geospatial technology to solve environmental problems. His role at MAPSS focuses on innovating with new sectors and exploring opportunities at the intersection of science, technology, and sustainable development. In this capacity, he also directs MAPSS Wildfire, a geospatial solution that generates the most comprehensive dataset on wildfires in southern Africa that support organizations at the forefront of the fight against wildfires. Pieter also has more than 10 years of professional experience as a landscape ecologist with local government and international non-governmental organizations having been contracted by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Global Challenges Development Fund (GCDF), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment (DFFE). He has also been awarded an Ecologist in Africa grant from the British Ecological Society.

Online Symposium Cards
  • B. Law: University of North West
  • Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA): Regent Business School
Online Symposium Cards
  • BCompt Honours
  • CA (SA): South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Mr. Grobbelaar joined the Deloitte Pretoria office in 2001 and was seconded to the Deloitte Office in Tampa Florida, USA in 2003 and later moved to the Nelspruit branch. He left the Auditing Profession in 2006 for a career in commerce and industry whereby he joined Kishugu in 2009 as a Director and CFO of the company. He participated in developing and driving the group strategy, with specific focus on Finance. His interest for aviation grew where he became more involved with Kishugu Aviation. He served on the Aviation Board since 2010 and today holds the title as CEO for Kishugu Aviation since 2018.

Online Symposium Cards
  • NDip Company Admin
  • FCIS
  • B Compt. UNISA
  • Post Graduate Diploma Corporate Governance and
  • Strategic Management UNISA/ ICSA
  • Professional Internal Auditor (PIA(SA))
  • Certified Control Self Assessor (CCSA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Certified Risk Management Assurance (CRMA)
Scroll to Top