N$12m Tipeeg project scuppered

The hopes of many small-scale farmers have been dashed by the illegal fencing of land earmarked for them.

16 October 2018 | Infrastructure

The illegal fencing of land has scuppered a commercial farming project, which was initiated in 2013 under government's Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg).

The project was faced with massive challenges, including internal conflicts within the relevant traditional authorities and competition for land between farmers, which resulted in the initiative not materialising in some areas.

The project was aimed at creating small-scale farms in the Mbunza area of Kavango East, the Sambui area of Kavango West, Okongo in Ohangwena and Otjetjekua and Amarika in Omusati, as well as Kongola near the Nkasa Rupara National Park in Zambezi, the Mangetti block in Oshikoto and the Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions.

The N$12 million project was 40% funded by government and 60% by the German KfW Development Bank, and was to be further assisted through advisory services financed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

It includes the fencing off of small-scale farms, as well as the installation of auction and multipurpose livestock pens on a commercial farming basis.

Mangetti Farmers' Union chairperson Ismael Shailemo said the project did not materialise in the Mangetti block.

He said the land was gazetted and subtracted from the communal area, and individual rights were awarded, but some individuals linked to the Ondonga Traditional Authority started subdividing and selling off the land to people who later fenced it off.

“The farming land has been turned into villages and now; there are just homesteads all over the land that was earmarked for small-scale farms. This land was already gazetted and the project was ready to kick off, until the illegal land fencing happened,” Shailemo said.

The land was now being operated as cattle posts and it has not been surveyed. Shailemo said the small-scale farming project was aimed at developing and promoting commercial farming in the communal area.

According to an extension officer from the agriculture ministry, who did not want to named, the farming situation in the Mangetti area is very complicated and difficult to solve.

He said some of cattle posts accommodate cattle for many owners, which are grazing together.

In many instances these people are keeping large numbers of livestock on the land, which leads to overgrazing and land damage.

“Some of those so-called land owners are absentee farmers who are renting out their cattle posts to those who want to farm, but do not have land. Due to that that situation there are always land disputes and conflicts among the farmers,” the extension officer said.

One of the resolutions from the country's just-ended second national land conference was the removal of illegal land fences.

Shailemo said they welcome this, adding he believes that Mangetti farmers are going to cooperate.

“Farmers are going to cooperate because they are now in dire need of those small-scale farms. Currently they are not doing much with their farms in their current state and they will welcome programmes that are aimed at developing their farming methods,” he said.

At Amarika, it is reported that the project was faced with the challenge of 13 well-connected individuals fencing off grazing areas that was also earmarked for the initiative.

In 2016, frustration and resentment boiled at a meeting in the Ongandjera kingdom, as farmers accused the Omusati Communal Land Board and Ongandjera Traditional Authority of offering special treatment to these 13 well-connected individuals after they fenced off grazing areas that included government boreholes, which provide water to livestock.

Earlier this year it was also reported that community conservation areas in Ohangwena have been hijacked by private individuals, who have demarcated private farms for themselves, in a scheme that implicates traditional leaders.

At a community meeting at Omauni in March, leaders of the two forestry initiatives and a conservancy project reported to environment minister Pohamba Shifeta that land allocated by government had been usurped by individuals.

Shifeta urged the traditional authority to address these issues as a matter of urgency.

He said the traditional authority is responsible for land allocations, but he is not convinced they are the ones allocating conservation land.

ILENI NANDJATO

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