!Kung chief welcomes farming units

The N‡aJaqna conservancy and !Kung traditional authority are on opposite sides of the proposed development in the Tsumkwe West area.

29 June 2018 | Environment

Glony Arnold, chief of the !Kung traditional authority, says she is surprised at Sarah Zungu's “change of heart” on the introduction of nine farming units in the Tsumkwe West area.

Arnold says the turnaround is “rather unexpected” since Zungu and the N‡aJaqna conservancy, which Zungu claims now rejects the farming project, were part of all stages of consultation and subsequent decisions.

Zungu, as the chairperson of the N‡aJaqna conservancy, last week rejected the proposal and claimed that a map and proposal on the project signed by a board member of the conservancy was unconstitutional.

She said the conservancy refused to sign off on a map to which it was strongly opposed and to which objections had been made in writing at several meetings with the ministry of land reform, which is driving the project to establish farming units in the area.

Consultants of Namibia Premier Solutions, who produced the map, concurred with Arnold that Zungu and the conservancy were part of discussions on the ministry's Programme for Communal Land Development (PCLD).

They said Zungu in fact was present when the now deceased Pienna Dammi (then the acting chairperson of the conservancy) had signed the proposal.

Arnold said Zungu and the conservancy could not reject the proposed farming units in the name of the San communities because they were not the legal representatives of the community.

She said the !Kung traditional authority was the only one in that area and that the San community in Tsumkwe West was thus legally represented by that authority.

“Sarah Zungu and her handlers should remember that nobody will pitch the N‡aJaqna conservancy against the !Kung traditional authority for whatever ulterior motives,” Arnold said in a statement.

Arnold said the conservancy was established through an initiative of the traditional authority and as such the conservancy should not rate itself above it but rather cooperate with it for the implementation of development projects.

“The PCLD programme will directly support the local traditional communities to fight poverty and hunger,” Arnold said.

According to the Namibia Premier Solutions consultants, the idea with the farming units is to create a mixed farming zone of 2 500 hectares each on the 53 000 hectares of the Aasvoëlnes area where there are currently 33 customary San land right holders. The 33 right holders and their family members amount to about 135 people.

Arnold said the plan was to establish nine boreholes with solar-powered pumps in unfenced designated livestock farming units; a community tourism centre with a San 'living museum'; a craft centre and camping site for tourists; and a community garden.

The consultancy's team leader on this project, George Eiseb, said only one of the nine farming units would be fenced to serve as a demonstration farm.

He said a cooperative with strong bylaws would be established to protect the vulnerable community.

It is envisaged that the farming units will be leased to people from outside the area for the first five years so that the cooperative can generate income to buy livestock and other goods to set themselves up on the farming units.

Eiseb acknowledged that the Tsumkwe West San communities are very wary of 'outsiders', especially after an uncontrolled slew of illegal invasions and the erection of illegal fences that are slow to come down despite a High Court order.

“Every development will attract outsiders. However, it will be prudent for the conservancy to stick to the project and manage the process. Influx can only be managed, not stopped,” Eiseb commented.



ZUNGU DIGS IN HER HEELS

Zungu has said in a new statement that all previous consultations were “meaningless” and that the conservancy's comments and suggestions were ignored.

She reiterated that all illegal land grabbing and settlement should first be dealt with.

Zungu said the minister of environment and tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, who visited the area in April, had seen for himself the extent of illegal fencing and settlement, which she said had “significantly reduced” the San's rightful land use.

She said the PCLD proposal would further limit the local community's access to conservancy land that is currently used for trophy hunting and devil's claw harvesting.

While Eiseb stressed that the proposed farming units do not fall within the boundaries of the N?aJaqna conservancy area, Zungu called on Shifeta to support the conservancy by requesting that the PCLD programme be “turned into one that brings wider benefits to a greater number of the legitimate local indigenous San community”.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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