By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Uncontrolled forest fires and bush encroachment in Namibia are being perceived as among the major obstacles in planting more trees in the country. With over 26 million hectares of the country still affected by unwanted bush, bush encroachment thus still remains a major challenge. Steps should therefore be taken to manage this problem and others like uncontrolled veld fires and desertification in a holistic manner. This is the view with which the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Dr Nickey Iyambo commemorated National Arbor Day last Friday when addressing school children of the Augeikhas Primary School in Katutura. “There must be a way to manage and control the spread of unwanted bush to make way for grazing lands and to find a suitable way to utilize the wood in an economical manner,” said Dr Iyambo, through a speech read on his behalf by Deputy Director of Agricultural Training, Johanna Andowa. Besides bush encroachment, the minister also touched on the growing problem of devastating veld fires. For many years in the past, fires were mainly experienced in the north-eastern parts of the country, but this year there has been a sharp shift in fires burning large parts of the Omaheke, Hardap, Omusati, Oshana, Erongo and Kunene regions. “Already this year, large tracks of grazing land has been lost to fire as well as game and livestock, and more are likely to die of hunger,” said Andowa. Calls are therefore being made to all stakeholders like farmers, youth groups and communities in different areas of the country to organise themselves with the agriculture ministry for practical training on the prevention and combating of fires in their areas. Community-based forest management is one of the tools used to encourage people to take care of their forest resources including tree planting. This concept is based on the national policy for the Community Based Natural Resources (CBNRM) approach. Essentially, the essence of Arbor Day is about planting trees. Since last year, the ministry has planted 500 000 trees of which 60 percent is the survival rate. Andowa however urged for an increase in this survival rate. Every year a tree species is chosen for planting and this time around the well-known mopane tree or Colephospermum mopane found in the Omusati Region has been selected. “This is a multipurpose tree. In some areas such as Omusati, we find the mopane in all the houses for construction, fuel wood, medicine and fodder. Hence the theme is let us plant the multipurpose and durable mopane,” said Andowa. Since last year the Ministry has also been involved in getting more people to take part in the tree-planting process as a way of sustaining their environment. At the end of the event 15 trees were planted at the Augeikhas Primary School in Katutura. Generally the significance of Arbor Day held every year is that it is a day dedicated for tree planting by the people for the benefit of the entire nation. The first Arbor Day was celebrated in 1872 in the United States of America and on that day one million trees were planted. In Namibia, the day is celebrated on the second Friday of October each year.
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