Kavango and Zambezi trees under siege as big trees are plundered for peanuts

Robert Maseka

WINDHOEK, FEB 27 – Citizens from the Kavango and Zambezi regions have voiced serious concern after witnessing ancient protected tree species being harvested and sold off at a penny. The said trees fetch a much higher price at their final sale value, yielding mammoth profit margins that surpass 1000 per cent.

Some enterprising Chinese nationals have been accused of buying these trees from communal farmers at a cheap price ranging from N$ 300.00 to N$ 600.00 per tree. However, it is rumoured that the same tree would fetch a minimum N$70 000 in Asian markets; a profit of more than 1000 per cent. While it is in the seller’s best interest to negotiate for a fair price, the lack of knowledge accompanied with absent fair-pricing systems, and a general need for immediate cash leave the farmers with no choice but to oblige.

A single pole is reportedly fetching plus/minus N$ 70 000. 00 in Asian countries, while here in Namibia they are bought for the equivalent of a penny at about N$ 400.00

On his Facebook page, international award-winning journalist John Grober, has gone on question whether some authorities in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry  are corroborating with Chinese nationals who are cutting and transporting to trees Walvis Bay, prior to shipment overseas.

“Does this look like “own use” harvesting to anyone else – and what was that about Forestry imposing a moratorium on all logging? It is just like I warned: Teofilus Nghitila ruled that the looters could transport their wood to Walvis Bay until the end of March was seen as a green light to chop as much trees as possible ”

Gobler cheekily predicted that “at end of March, Hou and Co will complain they have not been able to move everything yet. And every day, Hou and Co up there in Rundu are organising yet another eco-crime.”

Facilitator or not?: An Asian national holding a smartphone was recently spotted deep in Mungunda village of Mashare constituency in Kavango East sitting close to a heap of logs.

When contacted earlier today, Director of Forestry in MAWF Joseph Hailwa acknowledged knowing all the transporting activities taking place in those regions. He however denied that it was his ministry to blame, but rather regional political leadership such as Governors offices, farmers unions and traditional leaders particular in the Kavango region. The subsequent request to allow trees that had already been cut to be transported up to the end of March, according to Hailwa, also made it difficult to monitor the cutting of new trees or to determine which had already been cut or not by the time of the deadline.

Trucks are reportedly hauling timber day and night to the harbour for shipping to mostly Asian countries

Hailwa then accused Grobler of spreading lies about his personality and his work, before saying that his ministry did not know or deal with trade between Chinese and local communal farmers. He advised this reporter to confirm with the land and trade ministries as they were the responsible authorities.

When asked as what will happen if come end of March the activities of transportation continued, Hailwa said that his ministry will not issue any permit again as from March.

“Actually from our side as ministry the due date given to these people already passed two weeks ago. It is only the Ministry of Environment who extended it to the end of March and not us,” he said, before requesting the public to report anyone cutting trees again so that person is dealt with according to the law.

By Robert Maseka