Project in limbo for 40 years

A timber plantation established in the Oshikoto Region in 1976 has become a white elephant.

09 January 2019 | Agriculture


Decades after a study was conducted by the colonial administration on the eucalyptus trees at Onankali, no commercial use has been found for the massive plantation.

It was established in 1976 and was continued on a trial basis in 1982. After independence, the forestry ministry took over the plantation.

The National Forestry Inventory (NFI) recorded in 2000 that the 156.6-hectare plantation had 20 913 trees.

However, 19 years after the NFI research many trees have died, as the Namibian government could not find any useful purpose for them.

The Onankali eucalyptus plantation is situated in the Oshikoto Region on both sides of the Tsumeb-Ondangwa road.

The project grows mainly two eucalyptus species - camaldulensis and tereticornis.

Camaldulensis is used for timber and transmission and construction poles, while tereticornis is used for fuel-wood, charcoal, fibre and beekeeping.

The first survey on the trees was carried out in 1989, while the second was conducted in 2000.

“Thinning should be done to enhance the proper growth of the trees into more useful timber. It is also needed to clear-fell at least 5% of the area and let trees grow from coppices. The income from these harvests should be used to improve the welfare of the plantation (sic),” the 2000 inventory report stated.

This, however, did not happen, despite employees being paid to take care of the project.

The forestry ministry did not divulge whether the project is commercially viable or what it intends using the trees for.

Onankali resident Johaness Niilonga told Namibian Sun the trees are dying and community members have started cutting them down, so they can use the wood for their households.

“The community has waited for a very long time to see what the outcome of this project will be, but nothing happened. This project has been here for as long as we can remember, but we have never seen any harvesting being done. The trees started dying and the community members saw an opportunity to harvest them,” Niilonga said.

In other African countries such as Kenya, eucalyptus is the species of choice for many commercial farmers, because it has multiple purposes, and there is a fast-growing and ready market.

It is used as firewood, for making charcoal and for building, as well as for fence posts, transmission poles, pulpwood, timber and plywood.

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