By: Uakutura Kambaekua, Opuwo
Kunene farmers advocating the removal of the Red-line, also known as the Veterinary Cordon Fence, have called for the Red-line issue not to be politicised.
The farmers asked that all parties involved devise long-lasting solutions, including proper animal disease control measures, before removing the fence.
The Red-line is a pest-barring fence separating northern Namibia from the central and southern parts of the country and envelopes several northern regions, including Oshana, Kavango East, Omusati, Zambezi, Omaheke, Kunene, and parts of the Khomas Region and Oshikoto Region.
Northern farmers say the removal of the Red-line is long overdue now. They also cited that it is a deliberate move from the state to deny them their rightful right of enjoying lucrative meat market opportunities that the southern and central farmers are currently gratifying.
The Red-line restrictions have recently become controversial with various unions, mainly the Affirmative Repositioning (AR), taking the government to court in a bid to challenge the removal of the fence.
Since Independence, the government has also been fighting to remove the Red-line and allow prosperity in the northern regions, with plans of building infrastructure, deconcentrating farms and promoting the building farms on virgin lands. Still, nothing concrete has been produced to date.
Amupanda approached the High Court in May last year to declare the fence unconstitutional while calling for its forthwith removal.
Ngatuuane farmers Union vice president Ben Kapi said the Red-line deprives them of a lucrative international meat market. He said even though the fence was erected according to the international animal health law to circumvent the spread of deadly diseases, the fence should be removed to protect the meat industry.
He said various stakeholders gave government several ultimatums to boost the meat market inside the Red-line, which included, amongst others, the quarantining of animals before sales, fencing and zoning of disease-prone areas such as the Zambezi, Kavango East and West regions.
He said that all these suggestions fell on deaf ears.
“A fence should be erected at the Angolan border to control the movement of animals. Fences should also be erected at disease-prone like the Zambezi, Kavango East and West region to prevent the outbreak of diseases from moving to the parts of the country,” he added.
Kapi said that the Red-line situation is not a burdensome one to be pronounced, adding that some solutions include the fencing of the Angolan border and zoning all affected regions as a way of cleansing regions before sales and for better tracking and inspection of diseases.
Quizzed if Ngatuuane Farmers Union will support Amupanda’s stance on removing the Red-line, Kapi noted that it’s still premature to rally behind the case. However, he indicated that they would support its removal if all the necessary measures were implemented to ensure that Namibia’s bilateral meat export agreements would not be jeopardised.
“We cannot join in on the case as we are not entirely aware of its merits. We don’t even know if the case is politically motivated or not. However, as an advocate of farmers and a farmer myself, I am not saying that the Red-line should stay intact. But, before its removal, we should make sure that we abide by all necessary measures,” said Kapi.
He further stated that the Red-line has been disadvantaging Kunene farmers. He said concerned farmers are still irked by their inclusion in the red line, adding that the Kunene region has not had outbreaks in over 60 years.
He said the situation has affected the farmers badly as livestock prices have gone down, with no standard market price due to lack of market.