Namibia — The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry says it had to put its forest protection and conservation programme on hold because it did not receive the required information.
The programme was supposed to be implemented during the 2013/2014 financial year but the ministry is still to receive the names of the community members who were identified to assist in fighting forest or veld fires.
These community members will be responsible for informing the ministry’s office whenever there is a forest fire, upon which the ministry will mobilise people within the area to extinguish the fire.
Besides receiving training in fire prevention techniques, these community members will also be paid a monthly incentive over the seven-month period when fire outbreaks are more likely to occur.
Fire outbreaks usually occur from April to November. The community will be paid, whether there were fire outbreaks or not.
The programme will be launched in the Gibeon constituency as a pilot project and based on how effective it is, it will be extended to the rest of the region.
However, the ministry is yet to receive the names of the identified community members from the Gibeon constituency office.
The Gibeon CDC office was tasked to come up with a list of names, but up to now we did not get any names from them. Once we received those names we will start with training, said Hendrik Visagie, acting chief district forest technician in the Directorate of Forestry at the ministry’s Hardap office.
Visagie further said that the purpose of the programme is to have people in a certain area that would be able to fight fires the moment they start, while waiting for assistance from ministry personnel.
People usually just go to the police station to report these fires and it takes some time for the message to come to us; so if we have our own people in those areas then we know they can contact us directly, he said.
However, the Gibeon constituency office has denied being the one dragging its feet to kick-start the programme.
When contacted for comment, Alex Mulijani, chief control officer at the Gibeon constituency office, said his office has selected a number of community members who were supposed to undergo training to serve as veld fire officers in 2013.
According to Mulijani, the list was again endorsed last year at a CDC meeting and was also sent to the Directorate of Forestry.
When he enquired about the training for the identified community members, he was informed telephonically that the training was put on hold due to financial constraints, he said, adding, I can confirm that our office has the list of the community firefighters.