GOSCARS celebrate conservation heroes

Recognising top performers
The Grassroots Owen-Smith Community Ranger Awards aim to promote community-based natural resource management by recognising the men and women at the front lines as well as acknowledging responsible conservancies and related community-based organisations.
Ellanie Smit
Nominations for the Grassroots Owen-Smith Community Ranger Awards (GOSCARs) closed on 2 February.
The awards are presented annually to top-performing Namibian community-based organisations, conservancy game guards, conservancy lion or rhino rangers, fish guards or community resource monitors.
Nominees must be registered as a community-based organisation or work for a community-based organisation (CBO). Government, non-government organisations or the private sector are not eligible.
The Namibian Chamber of Environment (NCE) said the awards recognise the organisations and individuals who work in the field.
"They are the CBOs and individuals the late Garth Owen-Smith would want honoured in his name. They represent the original concept with which Namibia’s internationally recognised community-based natural resource management programme started.”

Grassroots work
The NCE said the annual GOSCARs serve to remind everyone about the front line of community-based conservation.
“Without community-based organisations and fieldworkers, there would be no community-based conservation in Namibia, no communal conservancies, no communal forests, no communal fish reserves and a lot less wildlife.”
The chamber said the winning conservancy and, if appropriate, their traditional authority will receive a small award, recognising that it is the people who live with wildlife and other valuable natural resources who hold the future of conservation in their hands.

Far-sighted programme
Namibian community-based conservation started with the appointment of community game guards by a few traditional leaders in Kunene and later in what was then Caprivi, now Zambezi Region.
This early work, pioneered by Garth Owen-Smith, was enabled by a small NGO-funded grant covering community game guard rations and small salaries.
“These men were the foot soldiers who stopped rampant illegal hunting in the early 1980s and who, with their far-sighted leaders and supportive community members, laid the foundation for what is today a vigorous national programme supported by government and NGOs.”
The awards therefore aim to promote community-based natural resource management by going back to its roots and recognising the men and women at the front line, as well as acknowledging responsible conservancies and related community-based organisations that are accountable to their members and fulfil their purpose.

Judging panel
Nomination criteria include effective monitoring of wildlife and other valuable natural resources, excellent communication with community members and conservancy committees, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and conservation outreach within communities.
A small GOSCARs committee chaired by Dr Margaret Jacobsohn will select finalists from the nominations. Beaven Munali, former assistant director of Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) Zambezi and retired chair of the Zambezi regional council, and Ronnie Dempers, executive director of Namibia Development Trust and Chair of the Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Programme of Namibia (NACSO), will also act as judges.
A cash prize and framed certificate will go to each winner at a ceremony in April.
These awards have been made possible by the generosity of hundreds of people, in Namibia and internationally, who contributed to the Garth Owen-Smith Memorial Fund.
The GOSCARs and the fund are managed by the NCE, who are doing the administration at no cost and will assist the judging panel with raising funds for the annual ceremony and other costs.
The winning CBO will receive N$100 000, while each individual GOSCAR will be awarded N$25 000 of which N$10 000 goes towards their conservancy, community forest or fish reserve.