RUNDU – U.S. Ambassador to Namibia, Thomas Daughton, recently visited a devil’s claw project in Kavango East that engages the community in biodiversity-based conservation agriculture.
The new ambassador and his delegation saw first-hand at the U.S-funded project how residents of Kavango East harvest devil’s claw and are engaged in biodiversity-based conservation agriculture.
The site of their dignified tour was Mahahe village located some 53 km east of Rundu, in the Mashare Constituency of Kavango East where the project is being implemented for the harvesting of devil’s claw known locally as “likakata.”
The project is among several that are bankrolled by the American Government under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program (SAREP), in collaboration with the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), from which many communities benefit.
“The devil’s claw plant is said to be a proven medicinal use as a pain reliever and as a digestion aid. It is effective in treating arthritis and is a popular natural alternative to synthetic analgesics,” said Fidelius Mpofu a field officer for the NNF in Kavango East.
“Although indigenous people have used devil’s claw for thousands of years, the plant in past decades has also become an important export to European markets,” stated Mpofu.
“In 2010, the Namibian Government approved a National Policy for the Utilization of Devil’s Claw Products, which included regulations on harvesting practices and a permit system,” further stated the NNF field officer.
The U.S. ambassador was further advised how the NNF in partnership with SAREP is working with communities in the Kavango to take advantage of natural products like devil’s claw through training in three focused areas.
The three focused areas are harvesting and preparation, monitoring, and marketing and management of the resource.
Local communities are being supported through the process, from assistance in negotiation preparation with buyers to ensuring proper storage and sales, with the aim of ensuring maximum benefits are returned to communities through a sustainable and responsible management of the resource.
SAREP, through its partner NNF, is also applying the principles of biodiversity-based conservation agriculture in the Okavango River Basin where farmers are encouraged and trained to use a ripper instead of a traditional farming plough to improve crop yields, build resilience against drought and protect and stimulate the natural biological functioning of the soil.
A system of crop production that achieves high and sustained production levels while protecting the environment, conservation agriculture is a natural fit for land in the Okavango River Basin.
The Okavango River Basin is a critical, shared natural resource for Angola, Namibia and Botswana. This unique ecosystem is also a rich but fragile source of biodiversity.
To preserve the basin and address the economic and environmental challenges to sustainable development, poverty alleviation and equitable access to water resources, Angola, Namibia and Botswana are working together through the joint commission called the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM).
This trans-boundary approach to resource management and climate change is an important initiative of the Southern Africa Development Community, to which all three states are a party.
SAREP supports this important trans-boundary natural resource management initiative.
In coordination with OKACOM, SAREP is building the capacity of institutions in Angola, Namibia and Botswana to address threats to the ecosystem and biodiversity, improve access to water supply and sanitation services, and develop sustainable livelihoods for communities in the river basin that are complementary to the environment.
SAREP is also strengthening regional capacity to respond to the effects of climate change and HIV/AIDS by integrating these considerations into natural resource management activities.