Rundu — Up to 20 000 villagers, resident in areas in and around 330 000 hectares of land endowed with commercial tree species, are to benefit from revenue generated through community forest projects at Ncumcara, near Rundu, following its legalisation.
Mopane, teak and kiaat tree species, valued by local and foreign sawmills for quality timber, will be harvested and the revenue generated through the issuance of permits will directly accrue to the coffers established for the tens of thousands at Ncumcara.
The communities of Ncumcara 30 km outside Rundu, like those of the Caprivi and Otjozonjupa regions, will administer these projects through Forestry Management Committees (FMCs) after government accorded legal status to the empowerment scheme.
Recently six high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) the Kavango Regional Council, the German Embassy, German Development Service (DED), Traditional Authorities and civic society celebrated the gazetting of the forests in the Kavango Region. The German/Namibian project supports four of the five community forests located in north-eastern Namibia.
The project is collaboration between the Directorate of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW) and the DED.
Through the project, the benefiting communities are being assisted with establishing community forests so that they can sustainably manage and utilize this resource.
Project co-ordinator, Wolfgang Adamek says community forestry contributes towards the attainment of some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDs) such as environmental sustainability, poverty reduction and gender equality.
The Forest Act No. 12, 2001 provided the legal framework for the establishment of community forests in Namibia and this scheme gives local communities management rights over forest resources previously under the control of the Government.
FMCs, democratic bodies elected to represent the interests of the community, are now empowered to issue permits for the use of forest products such as logs and firewood.
These committees also implement forest management plans and supervise forestry-related activities among others.
During the opening ceremony, Kavango Regional Governor John Thighuru stressed the importance of community forests for the people.
He said, "local people will benefit from rural development, they can gain financial benefits from forest products and this will lead to poverty reduction."
Edmund Usiro, the chairman of the Forest Management Committee at Ncumcara commended the government, its German development partners and all stakeholders.
"The skills and resources you gave us will be used to benefit the communities. We want to testify that we have the skills to manage our resources. Our forest resources are under pressure. If we don't preserve them the desert will come to our region," said Usiro.
The country director of the German Development Service, Achim Motier, emphasized the excellent co-operation existing between the various local and German stakeholders.
"We came here to improve the livelihood of the people and I think we have reached this objective so far," said the official from the developmental agency.