Land Scarcity Dividing Farmers In Aminuis

11 Feb 2014 20:30pm
By Charles Tjatindi

GOBABIS, 11 FEB (NAMPA) - Theo Hamburee, a communal farmer at a tiny village in the Aminuis Constituency of the Omaheke Region, gathers his goats as night descends upon the village. He carefully drives them into the small kraal that houses them for the night – away from the cunning jackal lurking in the bushes nearby.
Hamburee, 65, has lived on communal land all his life. It is on this land that he has been conducting his farming activities, albeit at high risk with little returns. The land is barren, infertile for crop farming and overcrowded with livestock of many other subsistence farmers.
The Omaheke Region has over the years been amongst the worst affected by drought, with the Aminuis Constituency being the hardest hit, adding to the hardships of farming on this communal land.
Hamburee and many others in his position have pinned their hopes on what every communal farmer dreams of - owning his/her own piece of commercial land or at least being resettled on a government farm.
Statistically speaking, such wishes will most probably remain just dreams, because despite Governments efforts to address the ‘burning’ land issue, many Namibians still find themselves without arable land on which to base their existence on.
Namibia has, however, set in motion the Land Reform Policy in an effort to address injustices which large-scale land dispossession had brought about, and to reduce poverty and inequality.
Whether such a policy has helped the thousands of landless Namibians to acquire land, remains doubtful. The reality is glaringly clear - the bulk of the country’s population will have to put up with farming on infertile and arid communal land, as many claim that the current land policies favour the “haves”, leaving the “have nots” to their own devices.
A new phenomenon, which reflects the power of advantaged farmers over other farmers, has reared its head in communal areas of Omaheke. This occurrence, which is widely practised in the Aminuis Constituency, has been threatening the survival of those who carry out subsistence farming on communal land.
Several high-ranking government officials, employees of parastatals and many other well-off farmers who own commercial farms or have been resettled on government farms, allegedly still farm on communal land in the Aminuis Constituency.
Many of these farmers, according to information availed to Nampa, also have large tracts of land in the communal areas which they have fenced off for their own use.
They rotate the grazing of their livestock between their commercial land and the fenced-off areas on communal land.
Amongst those who have erected illegal fences around the Aminuis Constituency are reportedly traditional councillors, headmen and village elders - most of who appear untouchable by the villagers due to their positions.
A random check by this agency has revealed that some farmers in the constituency conduct their farming at up to four different villages within the same constituency, and have illegally camped-off land at these villages.
At some places, these well-off farmers lease grazing to fellow villagers in these illegally constructed camps at fees ranging between N.dollars 25 and N.dollars 35 per head of cattle.
Due to the magnitude of the drought, poor farmers have no option but to pay the set fees.
The villages of Orevia, Otjikoto, Ondjiripumua, Okombepera and Otjijere are amongst those that have a proportionally high number of illegal fences.
“We are in real trouble here in Aminuis. For those of us with only three or 10 heads of cattle, survival is very difficult. These farmers would just drive in animals from their farms and no one will dare say anything, as they will tell us that they too are residents of the place,” a farmer who requested anonymity said.
The Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 prohibits dual grazing to especially protect the limited grazing on communal land, a provision these well-off farmers have chosen to ignore.
Marvin Sisamu, deputy director in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement in the Omaheke Region, said the Act makes it illegal for a person who has one or the other farming rights on commercial land to equally conduct farming activities on communal land.
“Section 29 of the Communal Land Reform Act makes it clear that dual grazing is prohibited. There is no way you can either own a farm or have been resettled on a government farm and yet you still farm on communal land,” he said.
Sisamu, however, noted that the setting up of a homestead, with a garden and a few livestock to maintain the homestead is permitted in such an instance.
Such provision has exposed this section of the Act to exploitation as it does not specify the number, percentage or ratio of the ‘few’ animals to be kept on communal land.
Also, while the same Act is clear on the fencing-off of communal land, the farmers in question have nonetheless gone to the extent of ignoring such legislations.
The fencing-off of communal grazing land for an individual’s private use in Aminuis has in the past led to ugly confrontations, often ending in physical assaults on farmers in the area.
A 54-year-old man was last year viciously beaten, allegedly by a gang of men in the Aminuis Constituency, for illegally fencing-off land which belonged to someone else.
Hiskia Kamukuendjandje was attacked at his residence at Post Klein Agab (also known as Ozondjiva) with sticks and other unknown objects.
In September 2010, a man lost his small finger after it was chopped off with a panga during a land dispute between farmers in the Ondjiripumua, Otjijere and Okombepera areas, where some well-off people had allegedly been grabbing land at will.