Tsumkwe — The harvesting and sale of devil's claw in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy & Community Forest and the N#a Jaqna Conservancy & Community Forest offer on a yearly basis a substantial supplementary income for their members who undertake this activity.
However, the increase in illegal grazing in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest, as well as the illegal erection of fences in the N#a Jaqna Conservancy and Community forest (NJCCF) now threaten income generating opportunities.
With the 2019 devil's claw harvesting now over, harvesters from both conservancies and community forests supplied just over 20 tons of dried devil's claw, thereby generating a direct income of just over N$1 million for about 500 harvesters.
This income is substantial, considering that in many cases this is one of the only potential sources of income for their members, and especially bearing in mind the extreme drought conditions of 2019.
Resource management and the sustainable utilisation of these resources is one of the pillars of these conservancies and community forests. The approach towards the harvesting and sale of the devil's claw is no different. In both these areas, much attention is paid to ensuring the devil's claw is sustainably harvested for harvesters to continue benefitting in years to come.
Harvesting monitoring and post-harvest-impact assessments are carried out on a regular basis, and corrective actions can be taken if any problems are identified. Sustainable harvesting and resource health are also verified by an independent third party on an annual basis, resulting in the devil's claw being certified organic. Being certified organic covers a wide variety of aspects that are audited on an annual basis.
Illegal grazing and the utilisation of other resources such as firewood and water - in and around the settlement of Tsumkwe - have been an issue for many years for the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest.
The number of cattle and other livestock that are being corralled in Tsumkwe has ballooned over the last five years. In August 2017, the area being impacted was estimated to be in the region of a 10 km radius. Now, in 2019, this radius has increased up to a 30 km radius. This is illegal because the area in question is under the management of the Conservancy and Community Forest. In addition, no permission has been granted by the traditional authority. Aside from the direct impacts of this on the settlement of Tsumkwe, it is now also seriously impacting on the area around the settlement. In particular, the illegal grazing is now affecting the health of the devil's claw resource that occurs in this area. It is well documented that livestock graze on the above ground leaf cover of the devil's claw in the growing season, which is detrimental to the growth of tubers and their ability to flower and produce fruiting bodies (seed). The livestock also trample the area, making it difficult for harvesters to find the devil's claw plants.
In neighbouring N#a Jaqna, access to the devil's claw resource is being limited by the illegal erection of fences and the default ownership of the area. Many of the areas that have been illegally fenced off are endowed with the devil's claw. Not only is access becoming an issue but these areas are also heavily grazed by livestock, which is also negatively impacting on the resource.
The long-term potential negative impact of the illegal grazing by cattle and fencing of farms on the devil's claw resource, as well as its potential as an income generating opportunity for harvesters in Nyae Nyae and N#a Jaqna is considerable and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.