The plunder of Kavango

27 November 2018 | Columns

The critical role of information sharing cannot be underestimated in our modern society, especially if we want to be a transparent nation. With the advent of the new media, citizen journalism has taken its rightful place in our society and it is encouraging and inspiring to see ordinary citizens exposing wrongdoing and corruption. Our recent exposé of the ongoing tree-felling in the Kavango regions was first publicised by ordinary citizens, who observed the continued and unchecked logging of precious indigenous trees by Chinese syndicates. Namibians have complained that there is no real beneficiation taking place, since the Chinese want the timber in raw form, thus undermining local manufacturing.

According to forestry officials, the farmer and logger decide on the price at which the tree is to be sold. Typically the price ranges between N$300 and N$450, depending on the distance the tree is found from a tar road. Sources claim that the trees are then sold at Walvis Bay to a Chinese buyer, who pays around N$12 000 per cubic metre for the timber. This means that the local farmer gets between N$180 000 to N$270 000 for selling 600 trees. The Chinese ‘investor’ gets more than N$3 million for the trees. Disappointingly government has allowed this type of looting and contamination to continue unabated, because of weak law enforcement and corruption. We cannot allow Chinese syndicates to turn our environments into deserts, just because of their insatiable demand for precious timber, leading to illegal logging. The environment ministry has also failed to intervene from the onset and its reactive attitude in stopping the large-scale felling of protected tree species is a little too late. Government agencies should be proactive at all times, and above all, we have a moral obligation to be more responsible with our environment.

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