MEMBERS of Community Conservancies and Forests want permission from the Ministry of Environment of Forestry and Tourism to harvest timber for income generation.
They also want the accommodation funds the ministry spends during annual forums as part of cutting costs paid to them.
The concerned members informed the ministry officials during the Conservancies and Community Forests Chairperson Forum held at Ondangwa in the Oshana region on Friday, saying many of them travel from as far as Okongo and Omundaungilo to attend meetings and often they are forced to borrow money to be able to attend.
Chairperson of Okongo community conservancy Martha Nghidengwa stated that they have two community forests that are turning into white elephants due to timber harvesting restrictions while it could serve as income.
He said the ministry should also consider giving them money rather than booking people into expensive hotels when attending meetings.
The Okongo community conservancy which was established in 2006 and was gazetted in 2009 has close to 500 volunteers.
He said they have been volunteering for too long, which is not good, requesting the ministry consider giving them a small salary.
Chairperson of the Omundaungilo Community Forest Titus Nghipewa said they have no income generating project in their area. He requested the ministry to give them projects and said they also want to harvest timber to make money.
In addition, he said they should get “our accommodation money every time we attend such meetings. We can get our own accommodation, as the money we get refunded is given back to the person that has helped us with the travelling money.”
In response, Minister Pohamba Shifeta said officials should start processing confiscated timber for the benefit of the communities.
Shifeta said that a lot of the timber is currently rotting away where kept, resulting in the resources going to waste.
He explained that timber harvesting has not been completely banned, but a restriction was put in place to minimize the cutting of trees in the country and by any illegal means.
“Timber should be made into final products with funds to be shared with the community conservancies, unless the matter is being handled in court then people can wait until the matter is finalized,” he said.
Once the timber is confiscated it is kept at the ministry’s regional offices.
The directorate of forestry recently confiscated 4 000 timber pieces and a timber cutting machine. The value of the timber has not been determined.