WITVLEI: The persistent loss of grazing land to fires has the tiny farming community around Witvlei worried, with many not knowing how they are going to make it through to the next rainy season.
The farmers pin the blame for the huge devastation of their farmland on the irresponsible conduct of Witvlei residents who fail to extinguish fires in their surroundings after use.
As such, many of the farmers have been knocking on the door of the Village Council for possible remedies.
Agnes Karumendu, owner of farm Held No. 84 situated a mere five kilometres outside Witvlei in the Omaheke Region, is the latest victim of a veld fire. She lost more than two-thirds of her farmland after it was reduced to ashes by a raging fire over a week ago.
Karumendu told Nampa on Tuesday that she has been forced to move all her animals to the few remaining camps after six of her camps were burned to the ground, and all the grazing with it.
The fire, which she suspects might have been caused by Witvlei residents who forgot to put out a fire they had made, also destroyed large portions of fencing on the farm.
“We were not here when the fire broke out as we were attending a funeral at Otjinene, only to get a phone call that our farm was burning to the ground,” she said downcast.
Although members of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) were roped in to assist neighbouring farmers who were trying to contain the blaze, the wind on the day made such efforts futile.
“Farming activities on the farm came to a standstill as we had to move all livestock into the remaining camps, meaning that cows are with their calves, and we can as such not get milk,” she noted.
Calling for Government assistance, Karumendu pleaded for the mapping-out of clear strategies on how farmers whose land is razed by fires would be assisted to get back on their feet again.
“I am a widow, and the farm is all I have left. The fact that we have to continuously fight fires in the surroundings, which in most cases is a result of recklessness, should be addressed as we cannot endure any further loss of grazing land,” she continued.
Last month, farm gates, fences and other infrastructure on at least seven farms bordering Witvlei – including that of Karumendu – were also gutted by fire.
That fire allegedly started after residents at Witvlei burned dry grass around a primary school in the area.
Although they attempted to put out the fire after all the grass was burned, a strong northern wind on the day spread the fire further to the neighbouring farms.
Farmers in the Witvlei-Nina-Omitara surroundings struggled throughout the night on that fateful occasion to control the fire.
When it was all over, thousands of hectares of grazing land was reduced to ashes, with countless forms of infrastructure on the farms needing immediate replacement.
Approached for comment, Witvlei Village Council Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chris Murangi said while the council remains sympathetic to the farmers’ loss, its hands are virtually cut.
He conceded that it was indeed worrisome that the reckless conduct of residents at the town results in such huge losses for the farmers.
“We are really worried, and need to tackle this issue together with the farmers and see how best the Village Council, through our line ministry, can be of assistance. We will definitely be knocking on their door for assistance,” Murangi said.