Since April farmers, particularly communal ones, in Okakarara Constituency have been under a virtual economic siege.
This is because of a buffalo that was sighted in the village of Okarui in the constituency. To this day, since its sighting, the whereabouts of this buffalo has never been established.
Now farmers are paying heavily as a result of the ban on the movement of animals, and thus also a ban on the marketing of animals, which are their only means of income and sustenance.
This is not the first time a buffalo is sighted in the Otjozondjupa Region, and Okakarara in particular. The roaming of these dreaded animals outside their conservation confines has become a regular occurrence not only in Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions.
In the latter region a buffalo was seen in the village of Ovye in the Eiseb communal area in Otjombinde Constituency.
Luckily in no more that 24 hours, this buffalo – to the relief of farming communities in Eiseb and Otjombinde in Otjombinde Constituency, and Epukiro in Epukiro Constituency and Otjinene in Otjinene Constituency – was hunted and put down.
The hunt was not without drama of its own when one of the communal farmers from Gam, who volunteered to join the hunt, almost lost his life. In the hunt of the animal the farmer was shot. It is anyone’s guess as to the extent the authorities are prepared to take responsibility in all this.
The greater issue is that buffaloes seem to be overpopulating the already overcrowded, degraded and eroded communal grazing areas with their invasion of such areas. With attendant negative consequences to communal farmers. It is about nine years now since the sighting of the first buffaloes in Otjozondjupa Region.
Nine years down the line the buffaloes seem now to be freely roaming the communal areas – limited grazing areas for many a communal farmer and mainstays of the country’s beef production. But the problem has been continuing unabated, with little semblance of any political will, at least in the eyes of these communal farmers, by the relevant authorities to address it for good. Not only this but since the recurrence of the problem the communal farming communities, who most of the time have been at the sharper edge of the intrusion of the buffaloes, have been bearing the consequential costs via the bans on the movement of animals.
As one elderly communal farmer at Okakarara, now in his late 90s, recently testified, that never in his lifetime has he ever encountered in his environment incidences of buffaloes and the resultant banning of the movement of animals. Meaning, in his eyes, this is a post-independence creation, and thus in the powers of the government of the day.
Close to two months after the sighting of the latest buffalo in Okakarara Constituency, perhaps realising their own inability, if not lack of political will to tackle it, let alone the ongoing problem of the missing buffalo, and thus the indefinite ban on the movement of animals, the regional authorities hurriedly convened a stakeholders meeting at Okakarara on May 14 under the auspices of the governor of Otjozondjupa, and the Okakarara constituency councillor. This was as if to deflect the groundswell of unhappiness among the communal farming communities, especially in the Otjozondjupa Region, who slowly have been getting impatient with the seeming lack of concrete and purposeful action to trace the buffalo, lift the ban on the movement of animals, and ultimately institute measures ensuring solving the problem for good and ever.
But there seems to have been no meaningful outcome from the May 14 meeting, if only to satisfy and calm the farming communities that hopefully shelved own meeting. But soon after, last Thursday, disappointed by the lack of any concrete measures, the farming communities from the Otjozondjupa Region, joined by their fellows from Omaheke, met in Windhoek and formed what is now known as the Onjati Pressure Group. To say the least, this is nothing but a vote of confidence in the leadership, both governmental, traditional and of their farmers associations, to meaningfully find a lasting solution to this matter. Surely all powers and authorities that be must have seen it coming!