Fire destroys 40 000ha grazing land

The blaze swept across 16 farms and destroyed some 40 000 hectares of grazing land, as well as killing a substantial number of livestock and game.

Namibian farmers are aware that the dry winter months are a special hazard.

It only takes a carelessly thrown away cigarette butt, a cooking fire out of control, or even the hot exhaust of a motor vehicle to set the dry grass ablaze.

Add to this a strong wind and you have the makings of a major catastrophe.

According to official figures, between 3,5 million and 7 million hectares of grazing land is destroyed by fire.

The fires are said to occur most often in the Caprivi, Kavango, Otjozondjupa, Omaheke, Omusati, Kunene, Oshikoto and Khomas regions of the country.

The foreman of the farm Kowas, which forms part of the Dordabis Conservancy, Mr Christy Liebenberg told The Southern Times that is was too early for a final count of stock and game lost in the fire. He added that the loss of the grazing would entail having to buy expensive fodder from other parts of the country.

Currently the Khomas Hochland area is experiencing numerous grass fires and the city municipality’s emergency services division has been requested to assist with extinguishing the fires.

Urgent calls are being made for stricter law enforcement and a policy in this regard by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

“A comprehensive policy on this subject is needed because the occurrences and severity of the issue is putting excessive pressure on the sustainability of natural resources and there is a need for policy on both fire prevention and fire control,” explained Joseph Hailwa, the Director of Forestry at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry at the recent launch of the National Forest/Veldt Fire Management Campaign.

The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Nickey Iyambo remarked at the same occasion that the magnitude of uncontrolled forest fires and veldt fires called for the issue’s urgent inclusion in the country’s national policies and legislation, such as Article 26 and 95 of the Namibian Constitution, the Namibian Forestry Development Policy of 2001 and the National Land Policy.

The owners of the other affected farms in the area also were of the opinion that some form of emergency procedures were needed and that the police, the NDF and the Fire brigade should be included in this.

l See picture on Page B2

August 2006
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