NKURENKURU - Kavango West governor Sirkka Ausiku says some individuals permitted to harvest timber on their farms before the activities were halted, illegally harvested this number of trees in community forests instead of their farms and have sold to buyers using their permits.
Various reports of illegal harvesting are said to have been detected in Kavango West since last year.
“Since last week, I have been in the field and we found some logs that have been cut illegally in community forests, now these logs will be confiscated by the authorities, the forestry officials want to fine them but we want them to be charged with a criminal offence to set an example,” she said.
Governor Ausiku said that they are on the ground monitoring the illegal timber activities.
“Yes people got permits to cut trees and they did although the permits were suspended along the line which also included the suspension of transport permits as well, they did it legally, now there are those that hindered this activities with illegal harvesting and they must be taken to task,” she added.
The governor said culprits have harvested this timber in the community forests and hidden it and transported some at the sites where they make it seem like it was cut from certain farms, some farmers who got permits to cut have cut the permitted number of trees in community forests as their farms are far and they sell this illegally acquired timber passing it off as if it is from their farms.
Buyers who are Chinese then take it to their main site in Kavango East at Mutwe Gombahe village where they prepare it for transportation to Walvis Bay for its eventual shipping to China.
“When farmers were given permits to harvest timber, some people found a loophole to harvest illegally in protected forests and that is not right, it’s because of such activities this was brought to a halt, it is too much,” she said, adding they have the names of some of the culprits.
“It was a well planned and coordinated activity but some took advantage of it. We have reported this to the authorities,” she continued.
Government in November last year banned the cutting and transportation of timber after concerns that timber was being harvested without people following the correct procedures, and the broader concerns were over the environmental impact caused by logging, mainly in the three regions of Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi regions.
Last month, the ban on transporting timber was temporarily lifted to allow timber that had already been cut to be transported for shipment to China. The environment ministry has clashed with the agriculture ministry over the issuing of permits to cut down trees, it seems the ministry of agriculture did not consult with the ministry of environment before dishing out the harvesting permits.