23 June 2006

Namibia: Veld Fires Destroy Valuable Resources

Windhoek — UNCONTROLLED forest and veld fires destroy between three to seven million hectares of land in Namibia annually, a senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry said yesterday.

Director of Forestry Joseph Hailwa presented the draft National Forest and Veld Fire Management Policy at the official launching of the National Forest and Veld Fire Management Campaign of the Season in the capital.

He said these fires were caused by lightning and by people.

He said regions most affected were Caprivi, Kavango, Omaheke and Otjozondjupa.

Hailwa said parts of Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Kunene and Khomas also sometimes fell victim to fires, which caused extensive damage to wildlife populations, forests resources and the environment.

Inadequate incentives to undertake control measures due to unclear property rights in communal lands, inadequate co-ordination and co-operation arrangements between villagers, confusion caused by overlapping laws and traditional rules and inadequate skills and resources were some of the reasons for poor fire control and management practices, he said.

Stakeholders in the fight against forest and veld fires also signed a memorandum of understanding.

Hailwa said the policy was ready for consultations before it was forwarded to the relevant authorities.

Launching the campaign, Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister Dr Nicky Iyambo said frequent and uncontrolled fires posed a threat to human lives and their livelihoods and damaged the productive capacity of the land, property and infrastructure.

"Fire destroys valuable timber and forest products such as grass for grazing, grass for thatching and animals.

The damaged environment also has an adverse impact on the tourism sector, one of Namibia's most important earners of foreign revenue," said Iyambo.

He said fighting forest and veld fires required multi-stakeholder input and he was pleased that a number of stakeholders had made a commitment to fight the problem.

These included the Emergency Management Unit, ministries of Environment, Defence, Education, Lands, Information, Local Government, Youth and Sport, Safety and Security and Works as well as the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) and Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU).

Deputy Prime Minister Dr Libertina Amathila said fighting forest and veld fires was every Namibian's responsibility.

She called on smokers to ensure that they did not discard lit cigarette butts as these could cause forest and veld fires.

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