Namibia — The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, has called on all Namibians to take measures to prevent veld fires, which usually accompany the summer season and periods of drought.
No effort must be spared, including community education awareness campaigns, in all regions of our country, to pro-actively prevent the outbreaks of any uncontrolled veld fires, urged the minister. In a statement released on Monday, Mutorwa called on all Namibians to be extra cautious not to do anything irresponsible that may result in the destruction of any grazing that is still available.
Any irresponsible acts, that may result in the outbreak of veld fires, anywhere in Namibia, will and must be regarded as a criminal offence and those responsible will and must be prosecuted and legally punished, Mutorwa said. Meanwhile, the vice-chairperson of the Kavango Regional Farmers Union, Oiva Mahina, said the veld fire situation is a great concern in the region, due to the negative impact it has on the livestock sector.
Understanding is key, therefore all stakeholders need to speak one language and understand that veld fires are detrimental, said Mahina. He said he is also disturbed by the fact that perpetrators are often untraceable and can therefore not be prosecuted for deliberately causing veld fires. If there are no consequences, people tend to take the situation for granted. We need a platform to discuss these matters for the benefit of the nation, he said.
Veld fires are not good for livestock and crop farmers, said Mahina. Although commercial farmers are more vigilant and usually better prepared than communal farmers when it comes to preventing veld fires, Mahina still believes there is a need for communal farmers to adopt the same proactive approach.
MET accused of sparking veld fires
Another issue that is of particular concern to the minister, are the unconfirmed reports that officials in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism are often responsible for starting veld fires. I was alerting some farmers to be on the lookout for any uncontrolled veld fires the other day. While doing so, we could observe some smoke in the direction of the Khaudum Game Park. Unconfirmed reports have it that such fires have, in the past, been caused by the ministry officials, said Mutorwa.
The directorate of forestry in the Kavango must urgently and jointly, physically investigate and verify the facts on the ground and take appropriate action, Mutorwa ordered. He was however quick to point out that he is taking the reports with a pinch of salt, because according to him only verification will provide the truth.
It needs to be clearly and unambiguously stated that Namibia is facing a devastating and severe drought, Mutorwa warned, and called for closer collaboration between all stakeholders to prevent veld fires and to work together to fight them should there be an outbreak.