Cattle ordered out of national park

Local farmers are up in arms over a government directive barring them from grazing their cattle in the Bwabwata National Park.

21 May 2021 | Environment

KENYA KAMBOWE

RUNDU

An order by the environment ministry for Kavango farmers to remove their cattle from the Bwabwata National Park has reignited a debate about the ownership of the park.

The Hambukushu community plans to meet at Divundu today to pile pressure on the government to recognise them as the owners of the park.

In 1999, the cabinet decided that no cattle may be allowed in the park, mainly to prevent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

The Hambukushu tribe feels that their rights are being trampled upon as they claim ownership of Bwabwata.

The Hambukushu, Mafwe and Mashi traditional authorities, as well as the Barakwenas (Kxoe), all claim to be the owners of the Bwabwata National Park.

This claim was included in a report by the commission of enquiry into ancestral land claims, commissioned by President Hage Geingob last year.

Refuse to move

The chairperson of the Bwabwata Trust Fund, Alfons Mukerenge, says the community is unhappy with the way their traditional authority has handled the issue.

“They are allowing these people to push us out of our ancestral land. Why did they occupy Bwabwata without proper consultation?” Mukerenge said.

“It is on that basis we are asking the government through the ministry to answer the people as to where we must take our livestock. We are refusing and we shall never give up our land.”

Those accused of stepping on the toes of the Hambukushu community are environment minister Pohamba Shifeta and the ministry’s deputy executive director for natural resource management, Colgar Sikopo.

When contacted for comment, Shifeta referred enquiries to Sikopo.

Enforcing the law

Sikopo clarified that the ministry does not deal with land claims but ensures that all national parks are run in accordance with the law.

“We don’t deal with land issues in terms of who the land belongs to. That is not the responsibility of the ministry of environment. So, we cannot say who the land belongs to. What we can confirm is that the land (Bwabwata National Park) is state land and proclaimed as a game park,” Sikopo said.

On the issue of livestock in the park, Sikopo said it had come to the ministry’s attention that cattle were being herded into the park and the guilty parties were ordered to remove their cattle or face legal action.

“There are cattle in the park and these cattle are not owned by people who live in the park. The ministry is educating them that what they are doing is illegal and we have given them a chance to take action before we take strict actions from government,” Sikopo said.

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