WINDHOEK – Exactly 19 days since its establishment in Windhoek by concerned group of farmers from the regions of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke, the Onyati Pressure Group has been preparing for a mass demonstration ending at State House to present a petition to the Head of State by the end of this week if everything goes according to plan.
Onyati is Otjiherero for buffalo and the petition is about the recurrent problem of buffaloes escaping from conservation areas in the two regions into communal areas resulting in the ban of the movement of animals, which has had economic consequences for farming communities because of the inability to sell their livestock due to the ban on the movement of animals.
The buffalo is a carrier of the dread Foot and Mouth Disease. The problem of buffaloes comes along for close to nine years now without a lasting solution. Every time a buffalo or buffaloes are sighted in communal areas in especially the two regions of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke have been bearing the brunt of the economic consequences of their roaming, these areas with little help from the authorities in terms of alleviating these economic burden resulting from the lack livestock marketing because of the ban on the movement of livestock, let alone the authorities ever providing an everlasting solution to the recurrence of the problem, partly a result of unkempt fences around the conservation areas.
In this regard, communal farming communities in the two regions seem to have lost confidence in the political will of the authorities in helping them in any way it can, let alone in finding a lasting solution to the buffalo problem. Not only do the farming communities seem to have lost confidence in the political leadership, but very much in its own farming and traditional leaderships. Hence the establishment of the pressure group on May 17 in Windhoek to take this matter to the highest level, State House. At this meeting communal farmers from the two regions residents and working in Windhoek, they did not mince their words that the leadership at many levels, be it governmental and non-governmental, simply does not have balls as far as they are concerned, hence its indifference if not reluctance both in spirit and flesh and financial wherewithal to solve the recurrent problem of buffaloes.
They think for close to nine years or so, the area, which many an elderly have never known it for buffaloes, is now a reality without the community ever reaping any benefits thereof. On the contrary, it is the farming community that has been bearing the costs, with little bother from all the leaders to, let alone cushion the economic burden that the farming community has been bearing since.
Hence the forming of the pressure group to strive at the highest level for the immediate and urgent uplift of the ban on the movement of animals in the constituency, and ultimately and in the long shortest period possible for an ever lasting solution, even if it means banishment of this dreaded animal from the two regions. Following the constant menace of elephants in the communal area of Otjohorongo in the Daures Constituency of Erongo Region, communal communities have come up with the clarions call of “no more elephants in Omatjete/Otjhorongo”. This is the same echo of the communal farmers of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke as far as buffaloes are concerned, especially in the Okakarara Constituency in the Waterberg Plateau Park where buffaloes are reportedly to be quadruple overpopulated from 400 to about 1600 now.
The group has been coming for some time now, only delayed in their action by a stakeholders meeting last month in Okakarara by the Otjozondjupa Governor, Otto Ipinge, and the Okakarara Constituency councilor, Vetaruhe Kandorozu, which to them, like many previous half-hearted, gimmicking and superficial efforts proved even a disappointment with no tangible and everlasting solution. It is clear that the farmers are no longer amused by the efforts of the powers that be to once and for all address the issue of buffaloes, which are no more just a nuisance to the farmers but an economic menace. Last week leaders from the Otjozondjupa, including the Okakarara Constituency Councillor, met with the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta. But the Onyati Pressure Group as much as the outcome of this meeting is not yet known, is not convinced anything may tangible and meaningful may have ensued from this meeting. “This is the normal procedures through the normal offices,” one of the Onyati Pressure Group steering committee members, Ebson-Louw Muhipa, dismisses the latest meeting adding that efforts are on track to take the matter to the highest office this week if everything goes according to plan.