Illegal settlement and fencing continue to haunt the San community in the communal conservancies
The Nyae Nyae and N≠a Jaqna Conservancies, both run by the indigenous San communities, have formally requested the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) Minister, the Hon. Pohamba Shifeta to visit and support them in addressing issues that threaten the conservancies.
Lasy year in August 2016, the Minister said he would not tolerate abuse of communities in conservancies by invaders who want to cheat them out of their land and vital and scarce natural resources.
Both Nyae Nyae and N≠a Jaqna Conservancies, the two biggest conservancies in the country, have been struggling for years to address illegal settlement and fencing (N≠a Jaqna) and illegal grazing (Nyae Nyae). Despite court orders and the Minister’s words, the residents have been frustrated at the lack of progress, while those acting illegally have continued their illegal activities.
The conservancies were heartened by the response of the MET Minister last year and hope he will back those words up with action. They implore him to exercise his authority to help expedite the legal process of dealing with these illegal activities and put a definite stop to them. It is something the residents of the conservancies have been seeking for many years.
The problem with illegal settlement, fencing and grazing is that it threatens the fabric and long-term survival of the conservancies. These areas are based and depend upon sustainable use and management of the natural resources based there and caring deeply for their land and resources. While those acting illegally flaunt these rules creating overgrazing and water shortages and stretching the precious resources beyond breaking point.
Nyae Nyae Conservancy is also a Community Forest and N≠a Jaqna is seeking Community Forest status. This status means that these communities have rights over the grazing and those not given specific permission to graze are acting illegally.
This status has however not had the impact hoped for in getting additional Ministerial support from the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Fisheries (MAWF) in addressing the illegal grazing that is increasingly prevalent. Everyone agrees on the importance of protecting our natural resources and giving the San people the chance and opportunity to thrive within their conservancies, so that they can feel part of and contribute to the Harambee Prosperity Plan and NTDP 5. However, if the laws of Namibia and High Court rulings are not enforced the challenges facing the residents of the conservancy and their surroundings become insurmountable.
Sarah Zungu, the Chairperson of N≠a Jaqna Conservancy and a senior !Kung Traditional Councillor said,‘ We are constantly seeing illegal activities taking place in the conservancies and the lack of action by the authorities is leading to more and more people flaunting the law and abusing our land and resource rights’.
At the same time the local Land Board, tasked by the High Court with ensuring that 22 illegal settlers vacated the land they settled on, has failed to provide a progress report to the N≠a Jaqna Conservancy despite specific requests for information.
“We urge these matters to be given the priority they deserve. Both conservancies are optimistic that a visit from the Minister Shifeta will help garner support for their cause and give them the necessary clout they need to implement the rulings,” she added.