RUNDU - The Kavango East Regional Farmers Union (KERFU) says there is no irreversible environmental degradation caused by rampant timber harvesting in the region.
KERFU chairperson Adolf Muremi in a statement said as a union, they have been visiting most farms were harvesting took place and there was no sign of any irreversible environmental degradation as harvesting was executed accordingly as per forestry procedures.
“We are disheartened by media article on timber harvesting and transportation in both Kavango East and West regions.”
It should be understood that the moratorium which came into effect on 26 November 2018 banning harvesting, transportation and marketing of timber in Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi [regions] which was relaxed by the Directorate of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry on 11 and 12 February 2019 for Kavango West and Kavango East respectively, is to allow farmers to transport the already cut timber which are currently stored at the farms,” he said
The relaxation of the moratorium culminated in the re-launching of transportation of timber. This relaxation is only valid from the re-launching date until 31 March 2019, he added.
Muremi says his union understands that no one is above the law in Namibia. As such, he said, KERFU is well convinced that farmers had gone through the processes indicated to them by the Directorate of Forestry and acquired permits for the timber harvesting, transporting and exporting.
“When the Ministry of Environment and Tourism halted the process and informed the farmers to apply for environmental clearance certificates, farmers obliged. This being the case, as far as farmers of both regions are concerned, they have not broken any laws including those whose names appeared in the local newspapers,” Muremi noted.
Muremi is challenging anyone with concrete evidence to report to the authority if in any case, the transported timber is believed to have been cut or transported without having complied with the prescribed laws.
“The union is further requesting the public and the authorities that are pointing out that these farmers are conducting illegal harvesting operations to clearly state how these are occurring and provide concrete proof. Furthermore, the union would like these individuals and authorities to provide concrete and scientifically supported evidence of the irreversible environmental degradation and destruction that has been caused,” he said.
Muremi said it should be proven scientifically as to how a monitored and sustainable harvesting of timber such as this one can cause deforestation if farmers are allowed to harvest only tree species of a certain diameter out of more than 330 tree species in Kavango East and West regions.
He further said that the union shares the concern of exporting unprocessed timber, which is against our country’s local value addition policy and hence calling upon investors to work together with our government and farmers to setup a timber processing plant in Kavango East.
“We realise the great potential for value addition to the timber before exporting as well as the skills transfer potential for the region and country at large. As far as the farmers of the Kavango East and West regions are concerned, the media blasts are only serving to defame and alienate the farmers as uneducated and irresponsible criminals in their own country. The media should conduct a balanced investigation and report to the nation factual information,” he
“Journalists should visit the farms to see for themselves if there is any sign of irreversible environmental degradation caused by timber harvesting. The union can put it on record that, thus far there have been no irreversible environmental degradation caused by timber harvesting because when we visited most farms were harvesting took place, one can hardly tell that there is sign of such,” he concludes.