Role players get into gear to find lasting solution to buffalo problem

Onjati Pressure Group, barely two months in existence, seems eventually to be moving matters as far as the search for a lasting solution to the vexed and frightening question of buffaloes is concerned.

Onjati was established in Windhoek on May 17 by farmers from the regions of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke following the protracted ban on the movement of animals in April in the village of Okarui in Okakarara Constituency of Otjozondjupa Region. This ban lasted for close to two months from mid-April and was only lifted last month. This protracted ban prompted communal farmers from the two regions working in Windhoek to establish Onjati to put pressure on the authorities to garner their political will to find a lasting solution to the problem. This is after about nine years of the recurrence of buffaloes in the two regions, during which the movement of animals had been banned. As a result farmers have not been able to market and sell their animals for nine years of intermittent recurrence of the buffaloes in their areas and the ban of the movement of animals.

While the farmers have been bitterly enduring economic hardships every time with the recurrence of the buffaloes, and the resultant ban on the movement of animals for all these nine years, there has never been a lasting solution to this problem. As a result, farmers have lost confidence in the will and ability of the powers that be to solve this problem permanently, especially ensuring that buffaloes do not reoccur in their areas.

Thus, despite the lifting of the prohibition on the movement of animals last month, Onjati has vowed that this cannot be the end to the story and business as usual until the problem of buffaloes freely roaming their areas is attended to for good. And having lost confidence with both the relevant ministries, that of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, and that of Environment and Tourism to deal with the matter decisively, this time around Onjati, a group of ordinary farmers, decided to make a direct appeal to State House, itself, rather than continuing to rely on their respective leaders, be they political, traditional or farming associations. Their determination and resoluteness eventually seem to be bearing fruit after the Office of the Presidency directed both the ministry of agriculture and that of environment to give audience to this pressure group.

This meeting eventually materialised last Thursday when a 12-member delegation of equal numbers of farmers' representatives from the regions of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke met the relevant ministries at the environment ministry. The pressure group met the government delegation, which on the side of the environment ministry was represented by the minister himself and his deputy as well as the permanent secretary, while the agriculture ministry was represented by the deputy minister and permanent secretary, among others.

Onjati raised with the government delegation the frequent occurrence of buffaloes in the regions of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke, especially the lack of their proper control in conservancies, thus leading to their free roaming; poor fencing around such conservancies and the overstocking of the buffaloes in these conservancies. They also impressed upon the government delegation the impact of free-roaming buffaloes on both communal and commercial farming areas, and especially the poor identification of their origin; the lengthy bold sampling and testing following the sighting of any buffalo[oes], and their fear of the eventual impact on the entire meat industry and thus the economy of the country, given the importance of the meat industry to the economy.

In this regard the meeting resolved to establish a joint technical committee of 12 people, comprising all the stakeholders, two from each: Onjati Pressure Group; farmers associations; the Otjondjupa governor; ministries of agriculture, environment, finance, and Safety and Security; and conservancies. This committee is to be convened by the permanent secretary of environment within 12 days from the day of the meeting, which was last Thursday.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia