RUNDU - The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, through the forestry directorate, has suspended the issuance of forestry permits for harvesting, transportation, marketing and exportation of timber.
Farmers in Kavango East Region, one of the active regions in timber harvesting, reacted angrily to the decision.
Yesterday morning farmers who went to request permits at the Rundu forestry office got a rude awakening when they were informed that the activities have been suspended.
Many such farmers had already harvested timber which they now cannot transport or export due to the decision to halt the processes.
“Please inform your clients that all timber activities are put on hold, hence they must not harvest, transport, market or export any timber products (logs, blocks, planks) to avoid confiscating their timber,” reads the directive issued by the director of forestry, Joseph Hailwa
“This memo is to inform all forestry officials that as from today, Monday 26 November, to suspend all issued permits and stop issuing new permits for harvesting, transportation, marketing as well as exporting of Namibian timber until further notice,” Hailwa’s letter further stated.
The recent weeks have seen multitudes of timber being transported from mainly the two Kavango regions, mainly for export to China.
The harvesting, while some are sanctioned by traditional leaders, has sparked questions of whether the processes are sustainable and regulated. The farmers, however, claim they are bound to make losses on especially timber that has already been harvested and which are piling up on their farms.
“We have already invested a lot of money in harvesting and hired and paid for trucks to collect the timber and these trucks are loaded but we are now being told we cannot transport this timber and now who will compensate us?” a farmer remarked yesterday.
“These harvesting permits were issued to us by the forestry office and we harvested legally and now we are going to be in debt as we have invested so much with loans that we acquired to use in the harvesting process, and to pay workers, hoping to sell this timber and settle our loans.” The letter also states that the ministries of agriculture and environment are engaged in discussions to come up with a lasting solution on harmonising producers and requirements for timber harvesting in Namibia.
In Kavango East, some farmers have entered into barter agreements with timber buyers to drill boreholes for them in exchange for timber, New Era understands.
Other farmers say they were paid upfront and have already used up the money before their timber was collected by the buyers. With no money to refund the buyers, farmers say they are now trapped in debt.
The farmers are appealing for government to allow them to sell their piles of timber that have already been harvested.