OMAUNI: Representatives of 19 community forest management committees from six regions signed forest management agreements with the government at Omauni village in the Ohangwena Region on Tuesday.
Present at the signing of the agreements were the chairpersons and secretaries of different community-based forest management committees from the regions of Caprivi, Kavango, Kunene, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa.
The signing of the agreements symbolised the committees’ commitment towards the proper management and sustainable utilisation of forestry resources in their respective regions.
Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa was also present at Omauni to sign the agreements with the committee representatives on behalf of Government on Tuesday afternoon.
He was joined by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary (PS) Joseph Iita and Director of Forestry, Joseph Hailwa.
“I am particularly happy to observe that today’s ceremony marks the signing of management agreements between the identified and delegated community and government representatives,” Mutorwa said before signing the agreements.
The idea of the initiative is to empower members of the said committees to manage and sustainably utilise the local forestry resources to the benefit of their respective communities.
The minister stated that the financial benefits to be derived from the initiative should also benefit the coffers of the local traditional authorities and not only identified community members.
“Let me be absolutely clear here – the community and/or community representatives that are referred to in the Forest Act Number 12 of 2001 are not, cannot and may not, in terms of the definition, be different from those identified by the Traditional Authorities’ Act of 2000 and Communal Land Reform Act of 2002,” he noted.
According to the minister, a community forest representative should be a person who is known, but also who should represent a specific traditional community, as defined in the Traditional Authorities’ Act.
Mutorwa also pointed out that close cooperation between the Directorate of Forestry’s staff, the Namibia Forestry Council, traditional authorities’ offices, regional councillors’ offices, governors’ offices and the respective community forests’ management committees is fundamental to a desire success.
The Minister wants to see Namibia’s forest products such as wood processed locally and manufactured into final products like chairs to be used in schools.
Mutorwa also cautioned that illegal harvesting and smuggling of forest products in Namibia is a crime and punishable by law.
Paulus Mwahanyekange, the councillor of Ohangwena’s Okongo Constituency, under which Omauni falls, and Senior Headman Stefanus Weyulu of the Okongo district of the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority (OTA) also witnessed the signing of the agreement.