Shifeta trumpets conservation success

Success stories shared in USA

08 October 2018 | Environment

“The popularity of the programme is being driven by escalating benefits and development opportunities to community members,” Pohamba Shifeta, minister

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta has shared Namibia's conservation success story in the United States, while stressing the importance of managing resources sustainably.

Shifeta was invited by the US Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council and addressed a meeting on sustainable wildlife management for the benefit of people and species, in Virginia last Friday.

He said the communal conservancy movement in Namibia had proven highly popular and had expanded from only four registered conservancies in 1998 to 86 this year. Communal conservancies now cover 20% of Namibia's surface area.

According to Shifeta, community conservation is about managing natural resources sustainably, in order to generate returns for rural inhabitants.

Shifeta said conservancies encompass around 240 000 people, making the Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme one of Namibia's most widespread and successful rural development initiatives.

“The popularity of the programme is being driven by escalating benefits and development opportunities to community members, including collective income for conservancies, job creation, generation of in-kind benefits, improved environmental services and an increasing ability of conservancies and community forests to leverage rural development options,” he said.



Returns

By 2016, conservancies had showed earnings and returns of about N$111 million a year. Shifeta said in many instances this was by far the greatest source of income for communities situated in an otherwise largely subsistence farming economy.

“In semi-arid and arid areas on farmland, wildlife-based tourism realises much higher rates of economic return per hectare – between 30 and 250 times more than livestock on either communal or freehold farms.”

He said through conservancy-based community conservation and wildlife production, a total of 5 147 jobs were secured in 2016 for community game guards, conservancy managers, tour guides, lodge personnel and campground attendants. “This is a huge achievement with direct poverty reduction impacts.”

He said Namibia has restored the link between conservation and rural development by enabling communal area farmers to derive a direct income from the sustainable use of wildlife and tourism activities.

He explained that Namibia has an impressive network of protected areas. The 20 state-run protected areas cover about 17% of the country's land surface. These areas conserve biodiversity by protecting some of the country's most important habitats and species of national and global significance.

However, the proclamation of most protected areas in Namibia pre-dated the emergence of biodiversity conservation science.

“Therefore, parks were established in areas that were perceived to have little other value, such as deserts that were unsuitable for farming. The country has therefore recognised that its protected areas are not truly representative of regional biodiversity, with many indigenous and endemic species occurring outside of the protected area network,” Shifeta said.

He said to complement this shortfall, the country has put in place policies and a legislative framework for freehold farms, communal conservancies and community forests to acquire rights over wildlife, trees and non-timber products and tourism.

To date, 44% of Namibia's land area is under conservation management.

However, Shifeta said there are still many challenges and opportunities Namibia are faced with. According to him market access for wildlife producers is one, while human-wildlife conflict is another.

He said government recognises that living with wildlife often carries a cost, with increased wildlife populations and expanded ranges into communal and freehold farming areas resulting in more frequent conflict between people and wild animals, particularly elephants and predators in many areas.

This has resulted in livestock and crop losses, damage to water installations and in some instances, loss of human life.

“Illegal hunting - especially that of elephants and rhinos - is another challenge that we are faced with. The protection of wildlife should essentially involve preventing crime. The focus should be on preventing animals being killed illegally and not just on following up after they have been killed,” Shifeta said.

“Sustainable use is the result of good conservation and good wildlife management, and it is our collective interest to ensure that we use this resource sustainably for livelihood security and biodiversity conservation.”

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