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By: Justicia Shipena

The fire burning in Steinhausen District in the Hardap region for nearly four days is said to have been caused by children playing with matches.

This was said by the Hardap regional commander, Sydney Philander, on Tuesday.

“According to the farmer on the ground, the fire was caused by kids playing with matches,” he said.

Philander told The Villager that no criminal case was opened against the veld fire.

“Nobody was charged obviously because it is children.”

He added that no animals or humans had been injured during the raging fire in the district.

According to the ministry of environment, forestry and tourism (MEFT), the fire in the same district was caused by arson and charcoal burners.

The Namibia Charcoal Association (NCA) general manager, Michael Degé, said fires in the area are caused by illegal charcoal burners.

“They are not allowed to do it. It was done illegally. There are no members of the NCA. They just burned illegally there,” said Degé.

Degé added that the ministry is on their case, and they have confiscated some stuff already.

Degé said NCA is not a regulatory power and said they work closely with the ministry to confiscate the harvesting permits.

Degé also said the NCA is working together with the shipping lines in the country to ensure that no charcoal will be exported on a ship if NCA has not verified it.

“And this is to combat this nonsense that is going on. As we are now getting the feedback whereas our members don’t follow the rules which they do,” he said.

He further added that if a member of NCA does not follow the rules, the NCA reprimands them immediately.

“We take action, and this action includes that a permit is suspended for three months, whereby they cannot do charcoal for that period.”

Degé said no permits would be issued to farmers if inception is not conducted by forestry.

“Because people do things illegally on the farms and that where the fires start, and we need to stop this now,” he concluded.

Acting executive director of Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), Ingmusa Nyati, said there is no adequate knowledge on firefighting given to farmers.

“This is especially for communal farmers as they resorted to so-called traditional methods of firefighting,” said Nyati.

In this vein, Nyati said NNFU has started training farmers on how to control veld fires.

“We are working on how we can intensify training for farmers not only to control but avoid veld fires in the first place.”

According to MEFT this morning, the fire in Steinhausen District, which caused massive destruction now been contained.

MEFT spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said that Namibia had recorded 27 veld fires in the last 14 days.

Muyunda said the veld fires had burned 59 farms covering 143 000 hectares of land while killing 135 livestock and 75 wild animals.

“Fires continue to be a big challenge in the country with reports being received daily,” said Muyunda.

Muyunda added that the ministry monitors the outbreaks of forest and veld fires based on remote sensing and aerial surveillance techniques.

“The main causes of forest and veld fires are believed to be caused by charcoal production operations, mechanical appliances such as graders, recreational activities and local natural resource management related activities.”

According to data from MEFT, more than 2.5 million hectares of grazing land have been destroyed, and over 635 animals have perished since May this year.

Justicia Shipena

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