OMUTHIYA -The Ondonga Traditional Authority through the Omuthiya district court together with various village headmen are working around the clock to enforce law and order at pastures at Okashana due to persistent lawlessness and illegal occupation by farmers.
Over the years there have been an overwhelming number of farmers resettling in the area without authorisation, with some resorting to fencing off huge tracts of land, which is prohibited by the traditional authority.
The land known as Okashana KuuKongo WaNehale is a free-range grazing area, stretching about 60 kilometres south of Omuthiya to Oshivelo, and is reserved for small-scale farming.
No fencing other than that of a kraal is permitted and neither is cultivation allowed.
The district headman for Omuthiya, Paavo Shihepo, said they want to formalise the area in terms of allocation of cattle posts in order to clean up the mess and curb lawlessness.
This will help minimise overstocking to avoid overgrazing.
At a meeting held over the weekend, it was decided that all fences should be removed. In addition, it was resolved to introduce a numbering system that is designed to group cattle posts into camps.
“These are among the resolutions taken at both our meetings held in February and last weekend. This will help us know how many cattle posts are in the area and have statistics of livestock in Okashana KuuKongo WaNehale. The classification or numbering of cattle posts will assist in reducing cattle theft as well as bring in services of water,” stressed Shihepo, saying they are shifting from the old system. The new system will have a provision to teach farmers techniques to as far as possible avert the effects of or how to be prepared for droughts.
Currently it’s unknown how many farmers are settled in the area, but it’s believed to be hundreds. The numbering system will begin as from next month.
“In our next meeting scheduled for 20 April, we will begin to issue numbers to the already existing farmers, and the new moving forward,” he added, saying during the grouping some farmers will be allocated in fenced-off cattle posts.
“The issue is about setting up a cattle post, that’s it! Not turning the land into a farm. Fencing has been blocking movement of animals to grazing areas,” he reiterated.
“Structures and regulations have been in place but people are not following, hence we are just re-enforcing what is already there. Some have taken advantage, maybe they were not told the truth by previous administrators, thus some decided to purposefully, or unknowingly resorted, to fencing. In fact, no one has land rights to the place where they set up the cattle post, everyone is temporary even though it can be for an indefinite period,” he stated.
In addition, he said, the land is neither transferable. “If one no longer wants to farm for whatever reason they should approach our office rather than allocating to someone else without notifying us. Therefore, with the new system all farmers will be required to notify the traditional authority of their existence after every 12 months,” said the headman.
Furthermore, the headman said, anyone willing to venture into small-scale farming is welcome to approach the traditional authority and no fee is required. “The aspiring farmer should be willing and have ethics.”