21 April 2005

Namibia: Finns Won't Desert Our Forestry

Windhoek — THE Namibia-Finland Forestry Programme that was aimed at training local forestry staff members ended yesterday with the Director of Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Joseph Hailwa, declaring the programme a success.

Before Namibia's independence, the German colonisers concentrated on the planting of exotic trees for wood production, and colonial South Africa followed suit equally putting emphasis on commercial exploitation such that when the new government came into power there was a lot that needed to be done in order to save Namibian forests.

In 1996, the Namibian Directorate of Forestry together with its Finnish partners had bilateral talks and the following year the project support to the Namibia Forestry Strategic Plan kicked off.

The Finnish people through the Metsähallitus Programme gave a total amount of N$120 million that was channelled towards the training of staff and also for the long-term technical advisory, among other activities.

Hailwa proudly reported on the success of the programme especially in the field of training. In total, 30 staff members under this programme have finalised their Master's or Bachelor's degrees successfully.

Now that the programme ends on April 30, 2005, the Namibia Forestry Authority and Metsähallitus will go into yet more bi-lateral relations that would not involve governments but rather 'people to people' relationships.

In other words, the involved Finnish officials would work together with the Namibian authorities, civil society and the private sector to create other kinds of partnerships still aimed at boosting Namibian forestry. This would be done to avoid the long diplomatic negotiations that governments go through before programmes are put into effect.

Chargé d'affaires of the Finnish Embassy in Nami-bia, Seija Kinni-Huttunen, thanked Namibia for their hard work, and positive and constructive attitude towards this programme.

"The cooperation with the ministry and the department of forestry has always been very pleasant," she said.

Though the directorate has reported stories of success about the Namibian-Finland Forestry Programme, there are other areas that still need further improvement before Namibian forestry is declared safe.

Every year, about a third of the Kavango and Caprivi forest areas are attacked by bush fires and thus the management of these incidences should be made an integral part of the directorate's main activities.

Deforestation is still taking place at an alarming rate, therefore ways must be found to avoid this phenomenon.

At the same platform, Permanent Secretary of Environment and Tourism Dr Malan Lindeque noted that it is inevitable that all Namibians engage in tree planting activities and it is the responsibility of the 30 trained Namibian foresters to advise people, including communities, on suitable tree species that would grow given the Namibian climatic conditions.

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