Eveline de Klerk
Utuseb-Inexperienced harvesters are a threat to the !nara plant that is endemic to the Namib Desert and that provides a livelihood to the Topnaar who use it as a herb and as food .
The !nara, which is the main source of income for close to 2,000 Topnaar, grows along the banks of the Kuiseb River about 60 kilometres outside Walvis Bay.
Community activist Joseph Tjitekulu told New Era last Friday they have been experiencing an increase in inexperienced harvesters destroying the plant to such an extent that it might actually become extinct if something is not done drastically.
According to him the plant not being harvested and processed properly can also pose a health risk to consumers in terms of its high acid content that should be stabilized during its processing stage.
“People who do not know how to handle the plant enter the field without even doing proper research about it. This puts the plant itself in jeopardy and poses a potential danger in terms of sustainability for our community, who mainly make an income from harvesting the plant,” he explained.
Tjitekulu said they have been extensively engaging various stakeholders to see how they can protect the plant and prevent its extinction by implementing a policy that will allow the Topnaars to take full control and responsibility for its preservation.
“What we basically mean by this is that anyone who wants to harvest the plant will be required to have a permit to enter the !nara fields. This way we will be able to take full responsibility for the plant and outsiders will not have an opportunity for illegal harvesting,” he said.
He further explained that there is a significant decrease in !nara harvests. “In the past we had harvested up to five tonnes but the harvests these years are very few and this is also due to the concurrent drought we are experiencing,” Tjitekulu said.
“Thus we been involved with various ministries in the drafting of a bill that will offer geographical protection to the !nara fields to preserve them for future generations. However, we are not aware if the bill has been tabled already,” he said.
Tjitekulu called on policymakers to come up with laws that will better protect the livelihoods of all indigenous people and their knowledge, as in many cases these are exploited by outsiders.