Devil's claw under threat

Illegal grazing and the illegal fencing off of farms are having a profound effect on the devil's claw resource and its ability to sustain two conservancies.

14 November 2019 | Environment

The increase in illegal grazing in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest, as well as illegal fences in the N#a Jaqna Conservancy and Community forest (NJCCF) are threatening income-generating opportunities.

Lara Diez of the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation says the harvesting and sale of devil's claw in both these conservancies and community forests offer, on a yearly basis, a substantial supplementary income for their members who undertake this activity.

“The long-term potential negative impact of the illegal grazing by cattle and the illegal fencing of farms on the devil's claw resource, and its potential as an income-generating opportunity for harvesters in both Nyae Nyae and N#a Jaqna, is considerable and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Diez says with the 2019 devil's claw harvesting now over, harvesters from both conservancies and community forests supplied just over 20 tons of dried devil's claw.

This generated direct income of just over N$1 million for about 500 harvesters, said Diez.

This income is substantial, considering that in many cases this is one of the only potential sources of income for their members, and especially bearing in mind the extreme drought conditions this year, she said.

Diez explained that in both these areas attention is paid to make sure that devil's claw is sustainably harvested, to ensure that harvesters can continue to benefit in years to come.

According to her harvest monitoring and post-harvest impact assessments are carried out on a regular basis and corrective actions can be taken if any problems are identified.

“Sustainable harvesting and resource health is also verified by an independent third party on an annual basis, resulting in the devil's claw being certified organic. Being certified organic covers a wide variety of aspects, which are audited on an annual basis.”

However, Diez says that illegal grazing and the utilisation of other resources, such as firewood and water in and around the settlement of Tsumkwe, has been an issue for many years for the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest.

According to her the number of cattle and other livestock that are being corralled in Tsumkwe has ballooned over the last five years.

“In August 2017 the area being impacted was estimated to be in the region of a 10km radius, now in 2019 this radius has increased up to a 30km radius.

“This is illegal because the area in question is under the management of the conservancy and community forest, and in addition, no permission has been granted by the traditional authority,” says Diez. She says that aside from the direct impacts of this on Tsumkwe, it is also seriously impacting on the area around the settlement.

Illegal grazing, in particular, is now impacting the health of the devil's claw resource that occurs in the area. It is well-documented that livestock graze above the ground leaf cover of devil's claw in the growing season is detrimental to the growth of tubers and their ability to flower and produce fruiting bodies (seed).

“The livestock also trample the area, making it difficult for harvesters to find the devil's claw plants.”

Diez says in neighbouring N#a Jaqna access to the devil's claw resource is being limited by the illegal erection of fences, and therefore by default, ownership of the area.

According to her many of the areas that have been illegally fenced off are endowed with devil's claw.

“Not only is access becoming an issue, but these areas are also heavily grazed by livestock, which is also negatively impacting on the resource.”

ELLANIE SMIT

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