Established in 1998, the ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy is a significant component of a greater conservation area that includes communal conservancies, tourism concessions, the Etosha National Park and some freehold conservancies.
by Lucy Kemp on behalf of the NACSO Natural Resource Working Group
Covering 3 366 km2, the rugged, scenic landscape with its age-old hills and rocks, some of the oldest in Namibia, has little or no soil. Rainfall is rare, low and variable. Combined with very high evaporation rates, this leads to extreme aridity with sparse vegetation and grazing.
Prior to the formation of the conservancy, the 3 200 residents, mostly Damara people, derived incomes largely from two sources: off-farm sources (such as pensions, remittances and wages) and livestock farming with goats, cattle, sheep and donkeys. Many jobs were created by and through the conservancy and have thus improved the livelihoods of many people significantly.
The formation of the conservancy was initiated by the Grootberg Farmers’ Association (GFA), an active, well-organised local farming group. This was the first independent request that Government received to form a conservancy and many of the GFA committee members were elected to the first conservancy management committee. ≠Khoadi-//Hôas received less external financial and technical support than other conservancies registered at the same time, and GFA committee members co-ordinated management of the conservancy through the Forum for Integrated Resource Management (FIRM) that is made up of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), other government agencies, and NGOs. This led to a more integrated approach to rural development, including management and development of water infrastructure, rangeland, livestock, wildlife and tourism.
Their natural gems
The diversity of habitats, largely a consequence of the varied topography, rock and soil types in the area leads to an abundance of wildlife, many of which are endemic. This wealth of endemics means ≠Khoadi-//Hôas carries much responsibility for the conservation of what are often rare or uncommon plants, birds and mammals. About 215 bird species occur here, including endemics such as Hartlaubs’ francolin and violet woodhoopoe. An impressive array of large mammals including elephant, black rhino, eland, leopard, mountain zebra, kudu, gemsbok, ostrich, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, duiker, klipspringer, warthog, hyaena, jackal, cheetah and occasionally lion also occurs here. Most animals are concentrated in the Klip River area that has been zoned for wildlife and tourism, and thus serves as a core conservation area from which wildlife can expand into surrounding areas.
≠Khoadi-//Hôas was the first conservancy to reintroduce black rhino through the custodianship scheme of the MET. This reintroduction and that of black-faced impala demonstrated confidence in the conservancy to manage and protect rare and valuable species. These reintroductions helped expand the range of endangered animals and boost the potential for income generation. Perceptions about wildlife have changed significantly since the formation of the conservancy. Wildlife is now perceived as valuable rather than simply as a source of meat, or worse, a nuisance or threat. It is also widely agreed that the conservancy has helped reduce large-scale and commercial poaching by outsiders.
Tourism in the area
Hoada (which means ‘everyone’s’) is the conservancy-run campsite tucked away amongst golden-hued granite boulders just 150 metres off the main road, making- it an ideal stopover for self-sufficient travellers on their way to or from the north-western Kunene Region.
Perched on the brim of the Etendeka Plateau affording expansive views down into the Klip River valley is a hidden gem, the Grootberg Lodge. Built with funds provided by the European Union in 2005, the lodge is the first in Namibia to be fully owned by a conservancy. EcoLodgistix manages the lodge for the conservancy through a joint-venture agreement. The conservancy receives a percentage of net turnover, which will increase as the lodge becomes better established. The agreement also provides for the preferential employment of residents and their training to managerial levels. For example, Otniel Araseb started as a builder on the site, moved up the ranks to barman and is now Assistant Manager, making him well placed for when the conservancy takes over full management of Grootberg Lodge in 2015. Around 30 lodge employees support a large number of families, which is particularly significant in an area where jobs are extremely scarce. For several years after its establishment, ≠Khoadi-//Hôas relied on a small trophy-hunting quota for its main income. Apart from some external financial support to cover basic running costs, benefits from the conservancy were relatively few. It was only when the lodge was operational that the conservancy could expand its income base significantly.
In 2008 the Hobatere tourism concession was granted to the people of ≠Khoadi-//Hôas by the MET. The ability to develop tourism here means that the conservancy will be able to increase the returns to its many members. This will allow for greater compensation for wildlife-human damage and strengthen support for conservation in this endemic-rich area.
This article appeared in the 2010/11 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.