The persistent drought has forced some communal farmers to illegally invade conservancies and bribe communities with alcohol in search of better grazing for their livestock.
Such ill practices are reportedly rife in the Otjozondjupa Region among the San.
One particular hotspot is N#aJacna Conservancy, where illegal fencing is also said to be rife.
The Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta has raised concern over the practice. He has called on those doing it to stop and compensate communities fairly with meaningful incentives and not toxic substances such as alcohol that are destroying their livelihoods.
“It is particularly disturbing to note that communities and members of this conservancy, who are primarily San people, are threatened when harvesting or utilizing their natural resources for which they have approved quotas and permits from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism,” he said.
“This amounts to a contravention of the legal rights granted to the resident community under my authority as the Minister of Environment and Tourism in terms of the Nature Conservation Amendment Act, Act 5 of 1996.
“I am not going to tolerate this, not to mention a violation of the civil rights of the community concerned,” he said.
He also warned that no one has the right to graze in conservancies without the permission of members and the approval of the environment ministry.
“It should be an agreement to eradicate poverty and improve people’s livelihoods and not destroy them. No one can just go and graze without permission. We understand that drought is here, but they need authorization from communities who must also contact our offices for any authorization. If any fee has to be paid, then they should do so,” the minister reacted.
“It is unreasonable that cattle are grazed anywhere without permission and compensation to people who have rights over the land. I therefore call on all conservancies to report these incidents and to seek legal advice,” he notified.
He emphasized that land resettlement schemes are one of the activities listed in the Environmental Management Act 7 of 2007.
“It seems that the resettlement being done in the N#aJacna Conservancy does not have the required environmental clearance certificate,” he observed.
The purpose of an environmental assessment of listed activities is to identify potential harm to the environment and to the interests of people, and to identify ways to mitigate such harmful impacts.
He said there is a legal process underway in this matter and was hopeful that it would be concluded soon.
He pledged that the ministry would continue to work with the conservancy in whatever way possible so that they manage and sustainably benefit from their natural resources in their area, for poverty eradication and livelihood improvements.