More teak to go

Namibia's only Zambezi teak forest is under threat because of plans for enlarged irrigation schemes.

05 June 2018 | Environment

The Mafwe Traditional Authority, in conjunction with a Chinese outfit calling itself the African Safari Wood Lodge, is planning to “harvest” and “transport” protected and endangered Zambezi teak trees on a massive 12 000 hectares.

The areas in which the harvesting is to take place are on 2 000 hectares of the Katima Farm Irrigation Scheme and 10 000 hectares of the Zambezi Modern Agriculture Irrigation Scheme in the Liselo communal area.

According to a scoping report done by Nyepez Consultancy, which was commissioned to do an environmental impact assessment of the proposed felling of the precious trees, the Chinese company was given the go-ahead by the Mafwe authority and the Directorate of Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to cut down a 'specified number' of Zambezi teak trees on both farms.

It does not state what number of trees may be felled.

The report states that the Chinese company, in conjunction with the Mafwe authority, intends to cut the harvested timber into sizable pieces, to pack the timber into large containers and transport it to the Walvis Bay port for export to China.

It further states that the Chinese company was “hired specifically” to harvest the timber in the two project areas.

It is, however, reportedly not to be involved in the planned agricultural production in the two areas.



The report states that the African Safari Wood Lodge has “sought to acquire” a harvesting permit for small, medium and large trees from the forestry directorate in the Zambezi Region.



It could not be established from the agriculture ministry whether the company did indeed receive the permit. The Mafwe traditional authority could also not be reached for comment.



Nyepez Consultancy indicated that it did have consultations with identified stakeholders, whose recommendations would be taken into consideration during the preparation of the EIA study.



Nyepez Consultancy has placed an advertisement in which it announced a public consultation on the matter on 15 June at 09:00 at the Kamunu Social Hall in Katima Mulilo where the pros and cons of the project are to discussed.



Suggestions can be made until 22 June.







BACKGROUND



The two areas – Katima Farm and the Zambezi Modern Agriculture Irrigation Scheme – run along the border with Zambia.



The Katima irrigation project was decided on by the Zambezi regional council, Mafwe authority and the agriculture ministry to “revive” and “expand” it into a Green Scheme project. The size of the farm was then extended from 300 hectares to 2 000 hectares.



The so-called Zambezi Modern Agriculture Irrigation Scheme, leasing the 10 000 hectares of state forest, is the abandoned tobacco project of Chinese Ng Yung's Namibia Oriental Tobacco.



According to the scoping report Namibia Oriental Tobacco responded to the widespread criticism against the planned tobacco project and decided to change their proposal to growing maize, fruit and vegetables instead.







CONCERNS RAISED



Conservationists preferring anonymity have expressed concern over the planned felling of Zambezi teak, which is classified as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).



Already in 2005 the IUCN observed that these threes – protected by forestry legislation - were threatened by over-exploitation for timber, fencing and hut construction.



The conservationists said the planned irrigation schemes now provide the green light for the wholesale destruction of the only teak forest in Namibia.



Moreover, the second volume of the integrated land use plan for the Zambezi Region complied by the lands ministry in 2015 states that irrigation is not the best use of the land there despite its abundant water resources.



A strategic environmental assessment advised against large-scale irrigation farms “that involve extensive clearing of woodland or riverine habitat” to be replaced by mono-crops, or single crops on the same land year after year.



It states that it is “far less environmentally damaging” and more empowering for the local population to have many small-scale irrigation plots.



The agriculture ministry said it was looking into questions sent to it.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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