Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

Namibia: Caring for the Community Forests in Communal Areas

Windhoek — The German Development Service (Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst, DED) has joined hands with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), to manage and support eight community forests in communal areas in the north. The communal forest are Ncaute, Ncumcara, Ncamagoro, and Mbeyo in the Kavango region, Masida, Lubuta, and Bukalo in the Caprivi region and M'kata, which is in the west of Tsumkwe.

The project, which is called the Community Forestry in North-Eastern Namibia (CFNEN), was made possible by the cooperation of the Directorate of Forestry, the DED and the German Development Bank. CFNEN is being implemented by Namibian and German forestry specialists assigned by the directorate and the DED. "The project provides technical assistance for the establishment of community forests and forest management planning. It also supports training and capacity building of community members for resource management, product processing and marketing activities and the construction of communal office and storage facilities," said Katrina Schmidt, the DED's communication officer in Namibia.

An additional programme element is the promotion of private orchards and vegetable gardens in cooperation with the Directorate of Extension and Engineering Services and regional agricultural development centres in the MAWF. The eight community forests are part of the 13 community forests gazetted by MAWF on 14 February this year.

DED said the gazetting of the community forest constitutes the official empowerment of local communities with management rights over natural resources previously controlled by the government. It also reflects the strong commitment of the Namibian Government to support community-based natural resource management for the benefit of local people and confirms its confidence in local people's capacities and skills.

"Within the declared community forests local people are able to control the sustainable use and protection of valuable wood and non-wood forest resources against over-utilization, illegal harvesting and wild fires.

The communities now have the right to issue permits for the use of trees, firewood and other forest products and to use these resources on the basis of forest management plans and related use regulations (by-laws). Generated benefits can help to support both community development and natural resource management," said DED.

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