THE GREATEST CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN
Celebrate Namibia series
When it comes to conservation, Namibia is a leader in Africa. To date, Namibia is one of the few countries in the world that has conservation entrenched in its constitution. This has resulted in a success story like no other, one that is defined by collaboration where government efforts for the protection of wild species are supported through the involvement of communities.
According to Namibia’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, the inclusion of environmental protection in the Namibian constitution “has positioned Namibia as a global leader in conservation as it emphasises the paramount importance of conservation for the country.”
These sentiments are echoed by the CEO of the Namibian Chamber of Environment, Dr Chris Brown, who explains that “Namibia’s record of environmental accomplishment speaks for itself. Through the implementation of appropriate policies, it has created incentives for wildlife conservation, unmatched anywhere in the world.”
The history of Namibia’s conservation culture was truly embedded when after independence in 1990, the government established a model that placed local communities at the forefront of protecting wildlife. This was achieved through the establishment of communal conservancies. The residents within these conservation areas are empowered as custodians of the fauna and flora in their surroundings and they are responsible for ensuring their protection. This model also allows communities to utilise their natural resources in a sustainable manner, which has added value to wildlife and ensured the continuation of their avid protection.
According to the Minister of Environment, “the community-based natural resource management programme was established as a tool to empower communities and it creates incentives through sustainable development
and co-existence with wildlife. This initiative seeks to link conservation to poverty alleviation through the conservancy programme and tourism initiatives. The programme also provides communities with incentives to manage and conserve their areas and natural resources in order to unlock enormous tourism development opportunities and benefits through Namibia’s wildlife.”
What’s more, this initiative has brought many advantages to communities. Listing some of these benefits, Shifeta highlights how the communal conservancy program has empowered rural Namibians. Such benefits, which are also markers of Namibia’s conservation success story, include “the creation of employment (1,544 full-time and 6,000 part-time jobs); improvements to local schools and clinics; advancement of rural water supplies, development in nutrition, human/wildlife conflict mitigation; growth of natural resource management and a voice for rural people in Namibia.”
The innovative and inclusive management of wildlife and natural resources has created a situation where 42% of Namibia is currently under some form of conservation management. This is a phenomenal increase from a mere 13% in 1990.
Namibian conservation efforts have translated into measured successes, as is evidenced by the country’s thriving wildlife populations. According to lion expert Philip Stander, this country is one of the only places in Africa where the number of lions is increasing. Simson Uri-Khob, Chief Executive Officer of the Save the Rhino Trust, points out that Namibia is one of the last places in the world where you’ll find free roaming black rhino outside national parks. This diverse country also stands out as being one of few where African elephant populations are abundant and thriving.
As the CEO of the Namibian Chamber of Environment, Dr Chris Brown, says,“Today, national parks host only 6% of Namibia’s wildlife populations by number (more by biomass), whilst 12% occur on communal land and 82% on private land. Considering the broader landscape, communal conservancies now provide a connection between Etosha and Skeleton Coast national parks and are a key reason for the expansion of both the lion and elephant populations in this region. Land under wildlife and biodiversity management, both communal and freehold, neighbours over 80% of national park borders in Namibia.”
All of this, coupled with strong and active support organisations and non-governmental organisations focused on conservation, has made Namibia a world leader in conservation, for the benefit of communities and with rebounding wildlife populations.
With conservation written into the constitution, passionate conservationists and communities committed to protecting their resources, it is no wonder that Namibia has achieved this position and attracts people from all over the world to witness the abundant fauna and flora in this wild land of natural wonders.