Illegal settlers remain in conservancy

The San community of the N‡a Jaqna Conservancy believes no one is heeding their pleas.

11 November 2020 | Environment

FRANCOISE STEYNBERG

WINDHOEK



Despite an eviction order issued years ago, illegal residents remain in a communal conservancy and let their cattle graze there.

“Our conservancy has more than 2 000 members of the San community, but about 7 000 people live here,” says Sarah Zungu, chairman of the N‡a Jaqna Conservancy. “We have been in a court battle with the illegal residents since 2013 and in August 2016 the court ruled in favour of our conservancy. “The more than 30 illegal residents received an eviction order to leave the area,” Zungu says.

“Meanwhile, the 30 illegal residents have increased to more than 100 people. The majority come from the regions of Ohangwena and Kavango.” Zungu says there are more than 1 000 cattle grazing illegally in the conservancy.

“The eviction order is not enforced. Law enforcement has not taken place for the past four years. We are ignored,” says Zungu.

She says some illegal residents simply moved to another part of the conservancy. “We operate mixed farming and have sensitive wildlife areas where people are not allowed to settle. Those people are living there now,” Zungu says. One of the biggest income sources for the conservancy is trophy hunting. “Game poaching is rampant here. Our hunters come from overseas and if there are people living among the game, it creates the impression that we are in breach of contract with the hunters,” explains Zungu.



Illegal grazing

The illegal grazing of cattle is a major headache for the conservancy. “We are not livestock farmers. We harvest devil's claw and collect veld food. The cattle trample our devil's claw and bush food.” Zungu says the cattle also trample the thatching grass with which they build their homes. “Illegal grazing and over-grazing are the order of the day,” she says.

Over the years the conservancy has been pleading with various ministries and institutions for assistance.

“We are asking for help, but we are ignored. Is it because we are San people are that no one hears us?” Zungu asks.



Corona impact

She says because of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a lack of tourists and hunters. “We have had only four tourists and two hunters here since the borders were reopened.

“We are struggling. We don't know how long the pandemic will continue and we need to look for other sources of income now.”

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