Control over farms questioned

The N‡aJaqna conservancy says the establishment of nine farming units will not improve the livelihoods of legal San residents in Tsumkwe West.

06 July 2018 | Environment

Chairperson of the N‡aJaqna conservancy in Tsumkwe West Sarah Zungu in a recent statement said the Namibian authorities should inspect the area to ascertain if a 2016 High Court order calling for the removal of illegal fences has been complied with.

She said the conservancy has been struggling unsuccessfully for years to get the authorities to respond to illegal fencing and illegal settlement in the area and should make a concerted effort to remove all illegal fencing during such an investigation.

Zungu has earlier expressed her objection to the envisaged establishment of nine farming units in the Aasvoëlnes area and now says that these will only benefit a few.

“Instead of creating farms for a select few, the alternative and preferred solution should be to install donor-funded solar water infrastructure in local San villages. At the moment they are struggling to create gardens and farm livestock due to poor unsustainable water infrastructure,” Zungu said.

The establishment of these farms, each to measure 2 500 hectares, is a N$20 million project of the Ministry of Land Reform for agricultural commercialisation under its Programme for Communal Land Development (PCLD).

It is envisaged that eight of the farms will be kept unfenced and be rented out for the first five years as an income for the San communities who are then to take over the units at a later stage. One of the farms will be fenced in and used as a model farm. Other projects related to this include a community tourism project and a community garden.

Zungu says it is a fallacy to think that these farms will be rented out successfully, arguing that there are no mechanisms to ensure that rent will be paid and no guarantee that the lessees will not erect more illegal fences.

“Who will ensure that they do not start grazing on conservancy land when [the rented] farms are over-grazed? None of these basic issues have been thought about,” Zungu maintains.

The N‡aJaqna conservancy said the PCLD project should instead consider investing N$10 million for ten new boreholes in ten San villages, that N$2.6 million rather be spent on solar infrastructure in the San villages and assistance be given to them to set up their own gardens.

The conservancy further proposes that N$6.8 million be spent on a rigorous analysis of a proposed living museum and campsite.

It said the two existing living museums have failed and the Omatako campsite was abandoned.

Namibia Premier Research Solutions (NPRS), which was commissioned by the lands ministry to facilitate consultations with the local San communities, the !Kung traditional authority and the N‡aJaqna conservancy, has earlier expressed surprise at Zungu's apparent “change of heart” concerning the proposed farming units.

The NPRS in a report said Zungu had at first supported the establishment of farming units but that the conservancy and “by extension” the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), which offers legal advice to the conservancy, now holds the process at ransom.

Team leader of NPRS, George Eiseb, this week said the lands ministry has given the go-ahead for the farming units, but said the conservancy would be given another opportunity to give its input at a meeting on 20 July.

Eiseb said conservancy members have not attended a crucial meeting on 29 June held at Grootfontein.

He said more meetings will be held where eligibility criteria for the farming units will be discussed.

“We are asking the conservancy members to come to meetings to give their ideas; they must engage in the process. They must return to the planning process,” Eiseb urged.

Catherine Sasman

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