Namibian Sun

The Omauni forest has been hijacked by individuals, despite the land being gazetted for community conservation use.

03 May 2018 | Environment

Community conservation areas in Ohangwena have been hijacked by private individuals, who have demarcated private farms for themselves, in a scheme that implicates traditional leaders.

At a community meeting at Omauni last Saturday, leaders of the two forestry initiatives and a conservancy project reported to environment minister Pohamba Shifeta that land allocated by government had been usurped by individuals.

They said land grabs have severely affected the Omufituwekuta and Okongo community forestry projects, as well as the Okongo Conservancy, where the illegal fencing off land is the order of the day.

Okongo project chairperson, Martha Kapembe, and Omufituwekuta project chairperson, Raimi Angula, reported to Shifeta that despite community awareness meetings which highlighted that no new farms should be established, people ignored this and the forest has now been demarcated into private farms.

“We are faced with a challenge of people grabbing conservation land and they are erecting fences. These people are doing so without consulting us and it is very difficult for us to handle it because they are claiming they were allocated land by authorities,” Angula said.

She said in the past people use to graze freely in the Omauni forest, but currently there is no more free grazing as the forest has now demarcated as private land.

Senior game guard at the Okongo Conservancy, Isack Nyaanya, said that cases of human-wildlife conflict are very high and they use the money generated from the conservancy to compensate those who have suffered the damages.

“The wild animals that we have in the conservancy destroy people’s mahangu fields and we have to compensate them. Our conservancy was only given kudu and eland, but there are also wild dogs that are naturally from the area. Sometimes they attack human beings and livestock and we compensate people using money we generate from our activities,” Nyaanya said.

The Okongo constituency councillor Fanuel Ndadi said all their woes have been reported to government, but nothing was done.

“I am urging the government to respond quickly to the conservation areas demands. These people are willing to conserve for the benefit of their communities, but they are faced with tough challenges. We have to protect the forest and share resources. For now, other farmers also have nowhere to graze,” Ndadi said.

Shifeta urged the traditional authority to address these issues as a matter of urgency.

He said the traditional authority is responsible for land allocations, but he is not convinced they are the ones allocating conservation land.

Shifeta said this is the main reason many Namibians are now forced to find grazing in Angola.

“I am not pleased by the reports of conservation land grabbing, but I am also not convinced the traditional authority, who is the custodian of land allocation, are the ones that are allocating people conservation land. I am urging the traditional authority to follow this up and administer the law. The community forestry is there to be shared by the community, but not to be fenced off by individuals setting up their farms.”

Shifeta said this is the reason why cases of human-wildlife conflict are increasing.

The Oukwanyama Traditional Authority was represented by senior councillors Victor Weyulu and Nghidinihamba Urias Ndilula, who promised to take the matter up with Queen Martha Mwadinomho Kristiaan Nelumbu.

“These conflicts are caused because of competition between the growing human population and wildlife for the same living space and resources. Many wild animals are destroyed in retaliation for incidents of human-wildlife conflict. This may eliminate the species and affect the ecosystem and home ranges,” Shifeta said.

He also handed over 50 water tanks and 100 mahangu storage facilities he said will be used to mitigate and prevent human-wildlife conflict.

“We are here today to hand over equipment that will be used for mitigating and preventing human wildlife conflict, particularly the conflict caused by elephants. The equipment is not meant to replace or compensate those who have suffered damages to their equipment by elephants. It’s meant to be used by those affected by the conflict to prevent such conflict from occurring again. We are not compensating at all,” Shifeta added.

ILENI NANDJATO