Albertina Nakale WINDHOEK - Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu has called on investors that are seeking investment opportunities in the region to develop the land being availed by the traditional authorities for crop production to improve food security. This comes after the Zambezi Communal Land Board strongly denied giving the green light to the N$14 billion Chinese-spearheaded tobacco plantation in Zambezi Region. Regional communal land board member and deputy director of land reform in Zambezi, Charles Musiyalike, rejected the claim by the governor early this month that the regional communal land board in April recommended that a certificate be granted for Namibia Oriental Tobacco CC’s land to be used for tobacco and maize production. The land board had recommended the investor should stick to maize production and should just be given 3,000 hectares instead of the 10,000 they requested. The land board further recommended the lease agreement should be for a period of 25 years instead of the proposed 99 years. In an interview with New Era yesterday, Sampofu agreed with the land board’s recommendation to only allocate about 3,000 hectares at Liselo instead of 10,000. Sampofu said the land board recommended to the land reform minister Utoni Nujoma that the 3,000 hectares should only be used for crop production and not for a tobacco plantation. “Unemployment remains high in the region. We are happy with the recommendation. If investors can come and invest in crop production for food security then they are more than welcome at Liselo. We have the land availed to us by the traditional authority to put up green schemes,” he noted. Musiyalike recently told New Era the regional communal land board still stands at its initial decision of 2015, when it rejected the tobacco project for environmental and health reasons. “Tobacco production leads to ecosystem disruption and extinction of species, over-exploitation of land and climate change,” reads the land board recommendations made to the minister. The land board also argues that it never received any Environmental Impact Assessment report on the proposed tobacco project. The proposed tobacco investment early this month divided cabinet ministers, to whom the investors behind the project made a presentation. New Era reported that at a cabinet meeting the land reform minister Nujoma was said to have brought the investors for a presentation on the project, but health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku allegedly opposed the idea. Those who were in attendance said Haufiku was so livid at the idea that he threatened to leave the meeting in protest. In their recommendations, the land board also highlighted that “the use of pesticides and fertilisers runoff into watershed and leaching of these chemicals through the soil can contaminate sources of drinking water… Tobacco employees are also subjected to green tobacco sickness which is a type of poisoning that occurs from handling uncured tobacco.” The regional land board further argued that “according to a 2009 study in Kenya on tobacco farming households and non-tobacco farming households, it emerged that tobacco farming does not provide as adequate an income as other crops might”. Equally, Sampofu revealed that the government-planned green scheme project also at Liselo is at an advanced stage. He said the government is currently busy with de-bushing and fencing off the 1,600 hectares of land for farming units to be incorporated in accordance with the Green Scheme Policy. Although he anticipates work to be completed only by next year, he said that about 30 local small-scale farmers will benefit from the project once finalised.
New Era Reporter
2018-07-31 09:01:12 8 months ago