Quarantine Project Meets Resistance

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By William J. Mbangula Oshakati One of the greatest challenges facing the Livestock Improvement Project in the northern communal areas is the wrong perception of the local communities who treat such development efforts with suspicion and contempt. The main bone of contention is always the land, more especially when the local communities are requested to give way for the purpose of creating quarantine camps to introduce sustainable modern animal husbandry methods and techniques. The current project, which is also known as the Veterinary Cordon Fence Task Force, involves government, parastatals and private institutions such as the Meat Board, Meatco, Department of Veterinary Services, Directorate of Rural Water Supply, Directorate of Extension and Engineering Services, Directorate of Agriculture, Research and Training, and the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU). Although it is still in its infancy stage when it comes to consultation with relevant stakeholders on the ground, the project has already received indications that it will face an uphill battle to convince the various local communities to vacate some of the earmarked pieces of land for quarantine purposes in the Kunene and Mangetti areas. In the Mangetti farming area, some parts of the land to be affected are those illegally acquired and fenced. During the brief consultation held with various community leaders recently, it emerged that each individual has hisher own perception about the quarantine camps to be established in those specific areas. There are those who consider it as a tribal measure, a political move, a violation and invasion of their cultural and traditional norms, a way to snatch water and grazing resources from them, a creation aimed at stealing their animals, an arbitrary land grab, a potential threat to the environment as well as to human co-existence. Those who have been consulted so far, it is said, are either refusing to cooperate or are demanding alternative grazing zones. The most problematic area is expected to be in the Kunene Region where unlike in the farming Mangetti area the fencing arrangement will be something new. Project Manager Asser Sheuyange after his consultations with traditional leaders in the Kunene said: “It is a painstaking process of consultation, more especially when culture and tradition are involved. We are doing a lot in the concerned communities to convince them about the benefits of the project but still everything will depend on their goodwill to cooperate.” Sheuyange said comprehensive consultation with the affected communities is very important, because he does not want to repeat the mistakes committed by others in the past. Having tested the water so far, especially in the Kunene, Sheuyange noted that the consultation will have to be done in a very comprehensive, systematic and methodical manner. In order to succeed, he does not only need to brief his political principals in Windhoek and in the regions but may even need their company in the respective areas in order to convince the affected communities about the need and value of the project. The project was initiated in 1997 and is aimed at favourable marketing incentives for meat development in the country. But despite all the daunting tasks the initiative is facing, Sheuyange feels that the move is on the right track and all what is needed is to reach a common understanding with the concerned communities. In the Mangetti, an area covering 260 km is needed of which fencing material alone will cost millions and in the Kunene it will be more expensive costing about N$30 million. These expenses will include housing, transport, security, personnel, animal health centres and water points. So far health centres are only available in the Oshana, Oshikoto and Kavango regions. With regard to financing the project, Sheuyange noted that the project will depend on the state revenue fund and donor agencies. Some of the potential sponsors could be the European Union (EU), which may have some money earmarked for poverty reduction. “If we can motivate how our project will alleviate poverty and generate income for the economic development of our country, I think we may get financial assistance.” The communal regions north of the veterinary cordon fence have close to 1,5 million cattle compared to the estimated 800 000 cattle south in the commercial areas. But the communal farmers do not meet the farming requirements which will enable them to export meat to lucrative markets in Europe and elsewhere in the world. As a way to bring the communal farmers on par with their counterparts in the commercial areas, the Government came up with the idea of creating two quarantine camps in Mangetti and Kunene with the specific purpose to give commercial farmers access to international markets.