Nearly 150 small stock farmers in the Okashana woodlands in the Oshikoto Region fear eviction allegedly at the hands of the Ondonga Traditional Authority. About 10 farmers who spoke to the Windhoek Observer revealed that there was a meeting held a week ago by representatives of the traditional authority, who informed them that they are planning to establish an agricultural project where these farmers are currently settled.
Against that backdrop, the OTA allegedly requested the farmers to move to an area that is about 20 kilometres away. Okashana is a free range grazing area stretching from Omuthiya all the way to Oshivelo, where aspiring small stock farmers are accommodated as a reception area to set-up cattle posts. No permanent structures, fencing and cultivation is allowed in the area, and this has been the norm. Part of the area is under the Omuthiya townlands and also in the King Nehale Conservancy.
Farmers from all parts of the northern regions are normally given a piece of land to farm on temporary basis at Okashana for as long as proper channels are followed and permission granted by the OTA or through responsible headmen.
In their case, the farmers say they are shocked to learn of their sudden relocation, claiming that no prior consultations were done in this regard. The OTA spokesperson Frans Enkali denied any knowledge of such plans neither has he heard of an agricultural project mooted in the area, although there exists an area measuring 100 hectares where the OTA cultivates maize.
“I will lie if i have to comment, i know nothing, it has not come to our attention,” he briefly said. Meanwhile, one of the close associates to King Fillemon Shuumbwa Nangolo, a renowned businessman Mannetjie Kambonde, who the farmers revealed to be among the movers of the project, pleaded ignorance, even though he initially acknowledged to this publication when contacted for comment. He shortly thereafter referred all queries to the OTA spokesperson.
“There is a cartel that is trying to do things otherwise to relocate farmers even without compensation. Some people have been here since 1976 when the Late King Immanuel Kauluma Elifas ordered that this area be reserved for small scale farmers as grazing land. But it seems some people want to change it for their own gain.” said a village headman who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Another farmer who claims to have been farming in the area wanted to know why they were not consulted and who will be responsible for their relocation cost or compensation. “Look, we have invested a lot on these small pieces of land, we drew water from NamWater from a distance of 5 kilometres, who is going to pay for that? Also the area at Omutsegwonime where they want to send us, who will be responsible for providing facilities such as water and are those infrastructures even available,?” questioned the farmer.
Also farmers say that the area they plan to relocate them to is close to Etosha National Park and they fear that their livestock will be vulnerable to predators. “We have established that, these guys are doing it under the disguise of the OTA yet they are hatching their own plan, whereby they want to give land to their cronies from Ondangwa and elsewhere. We have also seen a map which they have captured on how they are to divide the land in portions of 40 to 50 hectares. Clearly someone was busy with these things and now we are victims,” fumed another who opted to remain anonymous.
Meanwhile Omuthiya town Mayor Johannes Ndeutepo when approached for comment, said they have not been consulted and also denied knowledge of the alleged development. He was however of the opinion that, if the OTA has such a plan they should approach council with a proposal so that they can see how it can be integrated into town lands. “We will need to study the project, its implications, viability and benefit, so that we can agree if development approaches there we know how to deal with the situation. Either they cease to operate and move or we can incorporate,” reiterated Ndeutepo.
On the part of relocating the farmers who happen to be on town lands, the Mayor said its on the discretion of the traditional authority.