OTJINENE: Raging veld fires have left a trail of destruction in the Omaheke Region’s Otjinene constituency, killing more than 10 horses which were trapped in the inferno recently.
Two cows were also killed in the veld fires, which started some two months ago.
The fires, which were at most times sporadic and varied in duration, have reduced the better part of livestock grazing land for a number of villages at Otjinene to ashes.
Farmers have been forced to feed their livestock by hand using animal fodder, which has proven to be a huge challenge due to the high prices of such fodder.
Those who cannot afford to buy fodder have had to stand by and haplessly watch their livestock – mainly cattle – die due to a lack of grazing.
As a result of the fires, cattle prices at Otjinene are said to be dropping sharply as farmers rush their livestock to the auctioning kraals in a bid to salvage some income from them, Nampa has learned.
Most affected are the villages of Otjijere, Oviapa, Ozonduno and Otjiuaketambo, where fires came up to a few metres away from homesteads.
At Otjijere, some 15 kilometres east of the Otjinene settlement, more than 10 cows have had to be slaughtered in the space of two weeks after they became too weak to graze on their own.
Gideon Kandovazu, a farmer at Otjijere, told Nampa on Tuesday that the fire that raged through their village – narrowly missing the village’s cemetery – was the first of its kind in recent years.
Almost everyone at the village fought the fire, but could not stop it from spreading to other villages in the vicinity.
“Strong winds made it almost impossible to fight the fire. I had to rush to my goats’ kraal in the middle of the night to set them free as I feared that the fire, which came within metres of my homestead, would trap my goats,” he explained.
Goliath Ngaringombe, a farmer at Otjiuaketambo which suffered extensive damage to grazing land, said he has slaughtered five cows over the last two weeks or so to avoid having them die of starvation.
“We are facing tough times. If we do not get rain soon, most of us who cannot afford to feed our livestock by hand would have to either slaughter more of them, or simply let them die as no one would want to buy such thin cows,” he noted.
Otjiuaketambo is 23 killometres east of Otjinene.
Otjinene Constituency Councillor Adolf Kangootui said his office is in consultation with the farmers to determine the extent of the loss of grazing land, and how they could assist the affected farmers.
The fires, according to farmers this agency spoke to, appear to have started at Eiseb, several kilometres further up east, which rendered fire-fighting efforts fruitless.
Although the fire is still burning, it seemingly shifted to the Okondjatu area in the Otjozondjupa Region last week, albeit with less force.
Veld fires have also ravaged grazing land in neighbouring Epukiro, leaving the villages of Ezorongondo, Okovimburu and surrounding areas with little to no grazing.
The Otjombinde Constituency has also not been spared this season, as veld fires have become an almost daily occurrence in the area.
Farmers across all constituencies of the Omaheke Region blame the fires on irresponsible hunting activities and debushing fires not being properly extinguished.