RUNDU - The Kavango East Regional Farmers Union (Kerfu) on Friday during President Hage Geingob’s town hall meeting here asked government to lift the ban it continues to maintain on the marketing and transportation of timber that has already been harvested.
This, the farmers reiterated, would enable them to honour contractual obligations they had already entered into with contractors and buyers before the ban.
Kerfu chairperson Adolf Muremi told President Geingob that the issue of timber has been blown out of proportion by the ministry of environment and the media who have limited knowledge of the situation on the ground.
“When we wanted to see you, we wanted you to commission a team and select the farms to visit and from there inform the nation with proper information but our media together with the ministry of environment used [misleading] information,” he said.
Muremi said the halting of timber activities has left farmers disadvantaged and in serious debt as some of them had already received payment for their harvested timber and now owe such consignment to the buyers.
“What is government’s plan on logs that are already cut and now losing value? Can government lift the ban on marketing and transportation of already harvested timber to enable farmers to honour their contractual obligations with contractors?” he asked.
“The environment commissioner was here in the region to show us [farmers] how to go about applying for an environmental clearance certificate for which farmers applied with all the necessary documents and followed the procedures but all were unsuccessful. Not a single one was successful out of the close to 200 applications,” he said.
“Why is the Environmental Management Act over-ruling the Forestry Management Act? This is depriving Kavango farmers from utilising natural resources of timber and charcoal, while south of the redline they are free to use forest resources without any conditions. How is harvesting of timber different from harvesting of fish, precious stones and charcoal?” Muremi asked the president.
Muremi, on behalf of the farmers, also asked why the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, does not come to the Kavango regions to address the timber issue like he did to sand mining, phosphate mining, and human-wildlife conflict issues along the Etosha National Park?
“Do you think with the expertise we have in the ministry of agriculture and ministry of environment we cannot harvest our resources sustainably? Why is the committee on timber headed by the Prime Minister not including farmers in Kavango East Region, who are mostly affected?” he further asked.
“Your Excellency, don’t you think our government is busy oppressing farmers in the Kavango East Region?” Muremi asked.
President Geingob and the line ministers did not respond to any of the questions asked during the town hall meeting, as too many questions were posed, leaving no time for feedback.