Community Forests a Boon

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By Wezi Tjaronda

WINDHOEK

Community forests last year generated more than N$300 000 for rural communities living in the north-east of Namibia.

Since 2005, communities in the project areas in Kavango, Caprivi and Otjozondjupa regions have derived an income by marketing forestry products such as timber and firewood, poles, wild fruits, devil’s claw, thatching grass, tourism, honey from bee-keeping, wildlife, weaved baskets and crafts. About 16 registered forests earned the N$310 000 collectively.

The advent of the forests has led to improved forest resource management and livelihoods of local people based on the empowerment of local communities with forest use rights.

Based on the Forest Act of 2001, the project assists local communities to establish their own community forests, and to manage and utilise them in a sustainable manner.

There are currently 20 000 beneficiaries in registered community forests in the three regions who manage the gazetted community forests.

The community forests are in their third phase (2008-2011) in which they are looking at integrating with conservancies, which will bring additional benefits to communities.

Last year, the Namibia Nature Foundation conducted workshops in the three regions to discuss an integrated approach to community forests and communal area conservancies both of which are core components of the Communities Based Natural Resource Management’s Resource programme, but which were managed in isolation. Conservancies want to adopt community forests as an additional source of revenue and for the improvement and protection of game habitats.

Community Forestry Advisor for the Kavango Region Jericho Mulofwa told New Era this week community forests in the region receive about N$35 000 per quarter from income-generating activities.

The region has five gazetted forests, four that are waiting to be gazetted while four others are emerging. The forests in the region cover 220 100 hectares with 9 561 beneficiaries.

Most of the revenue in the region comes from timber harvesting through selling of block permits for planks.

Mulofwa said the community forests have improved communities’ access to forestry resources and have empowered them by having permit offices within their communities. Previously, communities had to travel more than 100 km to get permits.

Caprivi has five gazzetted community forests, five about to be gazetted and 13 emerging ones. The registered forests last earned an income in excess of N$54 000 in three quarters.

Advisor to the Directorate of Forestry Dr Andreas Mench said in the second quarter alone, the registered forests earned N$46 000, most of which came from harvesting and selling of devil’s claw.

Other advantages of community forests are that communities own and manage the forests and have the power not only to benefit from them but also to protect them.

Community forests also enable communities to strengthen traditional and customary resource use rights, enable its community members to access training and capacity, offer job opportunities and improved food security and provide for subsistence needs.

The community forests’ project partners include the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry’s Directorate of Forestry, German Development Service (DED) and the German Development Bank (KfW).

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