Ever since colonial times, the rural inhabitants of Guinea-Bissau have been blamed for lighting uncontrolled fires all over the country. Based on in-depth ethnographic research in two regions, a country-level rapid rural appraisal, and analysis of satellite active fire data, this essay shows how burning practices are, however, diversified according to cultural, socio-economic, demographic and agro-ecological conditions, and how they have been changing recently as a locally-developed adaptation to new farming systems. Many new bush-fire uses correspond to current best practices (e.g., use of firebreaks, backfiring, burning at cooler hours of the day), but under a scenario of changing climate and land uses there is room for improving fire management to reduce negative environmental impacts, while preserving cultural, economic and biodiversity benefits generated by some traditional burning practices. The design of public policies for reducing material damages, biodiversity loss, and carbon emissions from fires requires an understanding of their local drivers. Following from that, the development of ecological management practices must engage with farmers’ knowledge and networks/institutions and meet their priorities and needs.