RUNDU - Chairperson of the Kavango East Regional Farmers Union (KERFU) Adolf Muremi says they have been engaging with the Office of the Environmental Commissioner and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to find an amicable solution to the resumption of trade in timber.
Farmers in the Kavango regions are still sitting with their timber on their farms since the suspension in the harvesting, transportation, marketing and exportation of timber.
Muremi in a statement issued to New Era on Wednesday said that the union, is also thankful to Kavango West Regional Farmers Union for their solidarity on the matter.
“The Union is also grateful to the support from the Governor for Kavango East and West, who through the union’s request facilitated meetings with officials from EC’s office and MAWF,” he said.
Last November, the forestry directorate, suspended the issuance of forestry permits for harvesting, transportation, marketing and exportation of timber and this decision was not well received by Farmers in Kavango East Region, one of the regions that is active in the harvesting of timber.
“It must be stated timber harvesting is a listed activity, which requires clearance certificate as per Environmental Management Act no 7 of 2007. As such EC office made it clear that, without clearance certificate, activities related to timber will not continue as it is against the provisions of the said Act,” he said.
Muremi noted the union is well aware of financial losses, which farmers have incurred as a result of the suspension of the issuing of the timber permits. “It is imperative to note that EC office has been helpful to assist farmers to apply for the clearance certificates. But as a law-abiding corporate citizen, the union cannot encourage our members to indulge in an activity which does not comply with the provisions of the law, hence the union was mandated to take the matter up with the relevant authorities,” he said.
Muremi said the union’s engagement with EC and MAWF has been fruitful but the only concern which the union is having on the matter is the pace at which the processing of the clearance certificates application forms is taking. “Our recent engagement and follow-up bears optimism that the process of issuing clearance certificates is at an advanced stage. Therefore, it is to the union’s conviction that the matter is receiving due attention which it requires and the affected farmers are always kept updated on any development regarding this matter,” he said.
On Monday, there was news on a local print media that some farmers are set to drag government to court, following the hasty suspension of the issuing of permits for harvesting, transportation, marketing and exporting of timber but Muremi said that was ‘total hogwash.’
“KERFU is distancing itself and its entire membership from the newspaper article which was carried in some media, titled: “Court looms over timber”. The article stated “about 250 Kavango East Farmers are set to drag government to court, following the abrupt suspension of the issuing of permits for harvesting. Transportation, marketing and exporting of timber late last year.”
The article is factually incorrect, he said.
“As the official representative of all farmers in Kavango East Region, KERFU would like to state it categorically clear that at no point did our members approach the union to take the matter to court. We therefore would like to put it on record that the article is malicious, misleading and devoid of any truth. The fact that this matter is been championed by a political party is tantamount to political parties getting involved in farmers issues,” he added.
“The union is aware that 2019 is an election year, but we urge political parties not to mingle in the affairs of farmers, which farmers unions are mandated to do. KERFU have been living to its mandate of representing its members without fail and at no point, did the union approach any political party to canvas any form of support in our endeavour to protect and advance our members interests,” he concluded.