NCA: 104 000 farmers in limbo

Lack of political will keeps Red Line in place

15 May 2019 | Agriculture

KENYA KAMBOWE

An Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) draft report recommends two options to deal with the Red Line - the construction of a Namibia-Angola border fence or the incorporation of low-risk NCA blocks into the current zone that is free from foot-and-mouth-disease (FMD).

It says the construction of the border fence will result in the estimated marketing of about 1.5 million cattle, 1.2 million goats and 104 000 farmers benefitting, while the construction of blocks will see 160 000 cattle and 130 000 goats being marketed and 1 200 farmers benefitting.

The report recommends that the country’s national political leadership and organised agriculture should conduct consultations on the two options available.

It estimates that N$100 million will be needed for the construction of the Namibia-Angola border fence, which is estimated to stretch for about 450 kilometres.

The operational costs of the project is estimated to be about N$100 million.

The incorporation of low-risk NCA blocks, stretching for about 650 kilometres, into the FMD-free zone is estimated to cost about N$145 million, with operational costs of about N$50 million.

“If the border VCF is agreed to, the implementation plan of the Directorate of Veterinary Services Disease Freedom Strategy of 2014 should be adjusted to remove unattainable objectives and provide for realistic budgets and timeframes,” the report recommends.

The report also recommends that a preliminary engineering and environmental scoping study should be commissioned to consider the design and assess the costs and benefits of a canal running along the Namibia-Angola border between the Kunene and Okavango rivers.

However, IPPR researcher Piers Vigne also bemoaned the lack of political will to address the veterinary cordon fence (VCF) or Red Line.

Vigne was speaking on Monday during a Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) workshop held in Rundu, where a draft report on marketing systems for livestock and livestock products in the Northern Communal Areas (NCA) was discussed.

Various stakeholders from the two Kavango regions were engaged on the findings so far. The parties also made submissions that will assist in finalising the report, which the NNFU commissioned the IPPR to do.

Vigne said the issue of the Red Line has been discussed over many years and that research and consultations were conducted in the past. Recommendations were made, but unfortunately the reports were never implemented.

He explained the Red Line is a socio-political issue, in the sense that borders do divide people, and in order to address the issue of community resistance in the future, the involvement of political leadership is key.

Vigne said political leadership should get involved and not leave the matter in the hands of the agriculture ministry’s directorate of veterinary services, which he described as “unfair”.

“Political leaders constantly refuse to engage on the matter. It is unfair for the matter to be left in the hands of veterinary services alone,” Vigne said.

Vigne revealed that during their research they discovered that farmers in Kunene Region do not have a problem with the construction of the Angola-Namibia border fence, as opposed to their counterparts in Ohangwena Region.

He said Ohangwena farmers are not in support of the Angola-Namibia border fence, as they move their livestock into the neighbouring country for grazing purposes.

Vigne said it is estimated that about 220 000 Namibian cattle are being grazed in Angola.

He also indicated that with the current drought being experienced in Namibia, the broken border fence is making it easy for Namibian farmers to graze their cattle in the neighbouring country.

During then meeting the Kavango farmers opted for the construction of blocks, saying although the impact would not be that massive when compared to the removal of the Red Line and the construction of the Angola-Namibia border fence, it would be best to start somewhere.

They argues that a lot of money has been spent on doing consultations and it is on that basis that they think that the blocks is a viable option at the moment and that they should be implemented as soon as possible.

Namibian Sun reported last week that the agricultural ministry plans to start with the process of gradually removing the Red Line and incorporating of FMD low-risk areas into FMD-free zones during the current financial year.

This is according to a technical paper by the ministry, which was submitted to parliament along with the ministry's budget motivation.

This is said to be in line with the implementation of the resolutions of the second national land conference, which took place last year.