WINDHOEK – It is important for all stakeholders to come together to brainstorm on the problematic of buffaloes in the Okakarara Constituency, says the executive director of the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), Mwilima Mushokabanji.
Mwilima says he is aware of what has been transpiring since the ban in April due to the sighting of a buffalo in a village in the constituency, and the subsequent banning of the movement of animals, a ban lifted only last Friday. This include efforts by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) to carry out the necessary tests on animals as per the Animals Health Act, which is necessary in terms of the country trade in meat especially to foreign markets like those of the European Union (EU). Unlike in the case of the Omaheke Region where another buffalo was sighted last month but traced and killed, and the ban there subsequently lifted, the Okakarara buffalo has never been traced.
Hence the need by the DVS to carry out the requisite tests before the lifting of the ban, explains Mushokabanji the protracted ban.
But all along he says the NNFU has been aware of the economic hardships farmers have been enduring as a result of the protracted ban to the effect that most recently it has written to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) impressing upon it the effect of the ban on the farmers, especially the fact that since they have not been able to sell their animals and the attendant difficulty of inability to buy implements and other inputs into their farming activities. Not only this but it has also impressed upon the ministry the fact that the non-marketing of animals by the farmers as a result of the non-movement of animals with no return on their investment in farming. This in turn impacts on animals throughput and on meat processing thus with a chain effect on the farming labour market as well as the labour market in the meat industry.
Hence the need for all stakeholders to urgently meet to find a short term solution to this matter of the ban. This is a meeting that the NNFU as the umbrella farmers body to convene in the quickest and shortest time. Unaware of confidence loss by farmers in their various leaders, including farmers associations, and by extension also in the NNFU to represent them in this matter, Mushokabanji faults many approaches on the menace of buffaloes hitherto, saying any long term solution must entail destocking the population of buffaloes in the Waterberg Conservation
Park, from the current population of about 900 to less than 400. This is by either culling them or translocating them and constantly monitoring their population. Further, by attending to the broken fence. “The leadership needs to come together, sit around the table and talk about it. The only way out of this is through a dialogue,” determines Mushokabanji pledging to lead such an initiate as soon as he gets a response from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to their letter. He adds that the recurrence of the buffaloes in the communal areas all over the country do not only pose a serious risk to the regions of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke, but to the whole country that could as a result face a closure of the country’s meat industry. He cannot contemplate a situation similar to that which once faced the communal areas in the north when for five years they could not sell their meat. But the situation there is now returning to normality with the Outapi abattoir now open looking forward to the opening of more.
His message to the farmers is that continued dialogue and the engagement of the government on the matter is the only way forward, especially the two ministries of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and MET for a collective solution in the shortest and quickest time possible.