Namibia: Farmers Live in Fear of Lions

Photo: Pixabay
25 February 2020

Etosha — Communal farmers in the Ananke area say they have for years been living in fear of wild animals such as lions, hyenas, elephants and rhinos due to the damaged Etosha National Park fence.

The farmers have, however, expressed their appreciation towards the government for the upgrading works to the fence. Due to the fence's deplorable condition, most dangerous wild animals such as lions and elephants often leave the park and end up in conflict with humans - a serious situation that causes loss of lives to people in surrounding areas of Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto and Kunene regions.

One of the community members who applauded government for the fence upgrade is Julia Joseph, a resident of Ananke village bordering the Etosha fence, which has been dilapidated for some time now. "We are very happy for the fence upgrading. We lived in fear for years due to wild animals. We use to lose our livestock all the time. I lost two donkeys in 2017 but received nothing in terms of compensation," said Joseph.

Nangolo Sakeus said he too lived in fear for years as they often stumble upon dangerous animals such as lions and elephants. He thanked the government for the initiative of upgrading the fence to protect their lives and that of their livestock.

The ministry over the weekend launched the Etosha boundary fence construction and Friends of the Parks Programme. Environment and Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta has decided the ongoing upgrade and construction of the fence will no longer go through the tendering process, arguing middlemen pocket huge money while they do shoddy work for the government.

"If we were to continue using private companies or contractors to construct the game proof fence at Etosha National Park, it is estimated that it would cost in excess of N$700 000 per kilometre. For the 712 kilometres still remaining, this project would, therefore, cost the government an estimated amount of N$500 million," Shifeta revealed.

Through the use of the ministry's staff members and other assistants and volunteers, Shifeta said it is estimated they will spend less than N$10 million over the next three years to undertake this work. This, he said, will cover the costs of additional materials and other operational costs such as camping allowances and protective clothing.

Shifeta said the boundary of the Etosha National Park fence is an extremely long perimeter, totalling 824 kilometres and passing through the Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati and Kunene regions. The boundary fence consists of three types of fences: stock proof fence measuring 1.2m without netting wire; game proof fence (2.4m with netting wire), and a section of 14km (1.6m) consisting mainly of cable fence.

"The current fence has deteriorated to such an extent that in some areas, the fence does not exist. This situation has caused livestock to be grazing in the park and human-wildlife conflict incidents are being experienced with communities and farmers living around the park," Shifeta noted. Over the past five years, only 118km of the fence has been upgraded.

Shifeta said with the current annual budgetary allocation for the fence upgrade, completion of the work would take another ten years or more. This, he said, will have severe negative implications, as wildlife and livestock diseases will occur, while poaching and human-wildlife conflict incidences will increase. He emphasised the risk of livestock diseases as a result of cattle grazing in the park with wild animals might be increased.

According to him, this could have far-reaching economic implications to the country's beef industry and could potentially put export of beef to European, USA, China and other export markets in jeopardy. Therefore, he said, the ministry has decided to take the approach of business unusual to the upgrade and repair of the Etosha National Park fence.

"We have decided to deploy staff members of the ministry to upgrade and construct the fence instead of using private companies or contractors. We have identified the need to cut out the middleman and are doing precisely that. Manpower from neighbouring conservancies and farmers will also be used to supplement the efforts of our staff. Other volunteer organisations will also be welcomed to come on board, and this will be done in a more coordinated manner to prevent possible disturbance to wildlife and tourism activities in the park," Shifeta said.

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