Oshakati — The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry will hand over the community forest in the Kongo constituency to the local community as part of the efforts to empower the community in sustainable income-generating activities, improvement of their livelihood and forestry management rights.
The event, which will take place on Friday at Omauni, about 60 kilometres east of Okongo in the Ohangwena region, will signal the end of the bilateral cooperation between the Government of Namibia and the Federal Republic of Germany which financed the project through the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ).
The 75000-hectare community reserve forest is one of the13 such projects gazetted by the Government on February 14, 2006. It is part of three other similar GTZ-financed projects in the SADC countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland.
According to the forester in Ohangwena Region, Esther Amadhila, the project has been funded N$4 million since its inception in 1998, most of which has been used for capacity-building of the Forest Management Committee (FMC) for providing basic training in bookkeeping, for putting up infrastructure such as the offices, storerooms, houses, and a community hall.
The money was also used for supporting and promotng local and outside study tours, paying salaries for the project manager, administrators, and for purchasing operational facilities such as vehicles.
Michael Joseph Holongo, deputized by Peter Shimwefeleni, chairs the FMC. The secretary is Veronica Mulundu, and the treasurer Naeman Shilongo. The other members are Theopolina Hainyaka, Tusnelde David and Martha Kapembe.
With the winding-up of financial assistance from the GTZ, the FMC will be tasked with taking over full management of the project including the supervision of income-generating activities. All members of the FM C are volunteers. Two full-time administrators, who will be paid by the project, will run the project on a daily basis.
So far, the project has managed to generate close to N$85000 from its main sources of wood marketing, camping site, hammer mill, guineafowl farming and carpentry.
Amadhila told New Era that the project faced many challenges, among them the lack of young, educated people to spearhead the projects. Most of the young people who can make a meaningful contribution to the development of the project are located in towns and cities. This has resulted in the project being run by elderly people.
Another challenge facing the project is the illegal settlement of people putting up houses and extending them despite being advised not to do so. There are also by-laws related to this community forest reserve, which prevent the establishment of homesteads and the cutting down of trees within the protected areas. At least 20 names of people who have settled illegally within the protected area have been handed over to the Communal Land Board for immediate action.
"We are also worried about the new movement of people from the Kavango region with their animals into the protected area which may cause overgrazing and poor management of the resources in the reserved area," said Amadhila.
She added that previously some cattle-herders used to take their animals to Angola for grazing without permission, but it recently emerged that the Angolan authorities have introduced permits for all animal-owners crossing into that country.
A similar handing-over of a forest to the community is also take place at Onesi today, September 27. This one was run under the Northern Forestry Support Committee funded by the Finnish Government. At both occasions, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Anna Shiweda, will hand over the certificates of ownership to the communities. High-ranking government officials and also representatives from the German and Finnish Embassies will accompany her.