RUNDU – The harvesting, marketing, transporting and exporting of timber will only resume once farmers have have been issued with the environmental clearance certificates.
Director of Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), Joseph Hailwa, says. The suspension came into effect on November 26 as the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) intervened. “The colleagues from the MET indicated that the farmers should have environmental clearance certificates in order for them to proceed with the harvesting of timber,” Hailwa confirms, admitting that the forestry office issued harvesting permits without the environmental clearance certificate. “It’s true that they did not have that clearance before – with this MET intervention, farmers are told that getting the environmental clearance is the way to go, and they are doing that,” he says.
The mass harvesting of timber came about after the applications of a number of farm owners given leasehold ownerships of 99 years were approved. “They applied to be given some natural resources to utilise on their farms, and then we tried to see what legal option we can use for them to use these resources; the forest act makes a provision for the management plan, which indicates how much wood may be cut for a given use, and it’s what we advised farmers to do. They came up with management plans, which we tested and then we calculated the allowable cut. Then they got into partnerships with stakeholders. It is Chinese nationals who are dominating that partnership; and of course, there are few South Africans and local Namibians as well, but the Chinese dominated the partnerships,” Hailwa informs. “So in the process, last week, the MET department of environmental affairs went to the affected regions to engage farmers and give them forms to apply for environmental clearance certificates, which will then be processed and passed through the Forestry Directorate to support their applications. If they meet the conditions, then we pass the applications to MET. Hopefully, they may issue some of the certificates by next week,” he says.
In the meantime, the ministry is trying to also attend to some serious allegations that there are some people who are not doing things the right way. Either they are exceeding the number of trees that are given on a certain farm, or they go and cut outside the given area, and they mix it up like it’s from that particular farm. So, the suspension period also gives the ministry the opportunity to see how it can intervene or correct what needs to be corrected.
The issuance of permits have been going on for some time – either in a community forestry area or in areas where the ministry already has management plans and have worked out the allowable cuts. So the permits have been issued for years in community forests, and for the leasehold farms only for the past two years. “…and up to now, the suspension is still on, until we sort out this environmental clearance aspect with MET. It’s our hope that farmers make use of those application forms, and then we are going to process them further and see to it that everybody should have an environmental clearance certificate in place before going ahead with timber harvesting. Meanwhile, we are following those allegations to see if it’s true or not, and at the same time put measures in place, so that our people may not misuse the arrangements,” Hailwa concludes.