Text Lucy Kemp on behalf of the NACSO Natural Resource Working Group
Established in 2005, the Mudumu North Complex is a cluster of different types of conservation areas that co-operate in the management of wildlife, forests and other natural resources.
The overall aim is to work together to rehabilitate and manage the fauna and flora and resource use in the area, and to guide the development of tourism. The joint activities include fire management, game monitoring, water management, human-wildlife conflicts, conservation agriculture and holistic rangeland management, which increases the desirability of the area to tourists and investors, and increases the productivity of the land for the people living there.
The area covers 4 500 km2 of land on either side of the Kwando River in eastern Caprivi, and is large enough to make sense on an ecological, social, cultural and economic scale. The Kwando River and its fertile floodplains and forests are host to a wealth of charismatic wildlife species, including elephant, buffalo, hippo, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, southern reedbuck, roan, waterbuck and steenbok. Over 400 bird species, including the elusive Souza’s shrike, are a huge attraction for the birding tourist. Game translocations and the reintroduction of species that became locally extinct have helped to boost the numbers of some species. These animals have settled in and are breeding successfully. In addition animals in the parks now feel secure enough to move onto communal lands.
An increase of almost 50% in wildlife numbers on the Caprivi floodplains from 2004 to 2007 is partially explained by the immigration of elephants from Botswana and game translocations, but also indicates that wildlife is being accepted by local people, for whom there are few other sources of income. Most live off small-scale production of crops (maize, sorghum, pearl millet, beans and ground nuts), keeping cattle and goats, remittances from wage earners in the towns, and pensions. Wildlife often interferes with existing livelihoods, and there were few job opportunities in the area.
Prior to the formation of conservancies, many lodges were developed on communal land with little recognition of the rights of the people living there. Despite having to cope with the problems caused by the wildlife that tourists wanted to see, local residents gained little from tourism. Conservancies now provide the community with concession rights for lodge and campsite development within its borders and the ability to manage concessions within national parks. Lodge operators now need to negotiate rental or other payment for their use of community land and its wildlife resources. Most lodges in the complex work well with their conservancies and have accepted the need to develop some form of joint venture. Any new developments will be well managed to ensure maximum bene-fits for both conservancies and investors. A tourist hub, with an information centre for tourists and locals alike, is being developed at Kongola to boost secondary enterprises such as a fresh-produce market and the Mashi Craft Market.
The key players are Government, local communities and their traditional leadership, and the non-governmental organisations as follows:
Bwabwata National Park
Mudumu National Park
The Mayuni Conservancy (established in 1999) covering 151 km2, was established with support from Chief Mayuni, who has been a strong driving force for conservation in the area. The conservancy borders the Bwabwata National Park along the Kwando River, where all the tourism operations are based.
Mazambala Lodge offers boat trips, fishing and game drives into Bwabwata. This is an income-sharing deal with the conservancy.
Nambwa Community Campsite is fully operated by the conservancy.
Susuwe Island Lodge on the main channel of the Kwando River overlooks the Bwabwata National Park, in which it offers birding trips by boat, game drives and guided walks.
Kubunyana Campsite was built following a joint-venture partnership agreement between Susuwe Island Lodge and the community. The campsite includes a small tented camp, is managed by the community and is an important source of revenue for them.
Mukolo Campsite and a traditional village are being privately developed as tourism potential for the area increases.
Kwandu Conservancy (established in 1999) covers an area of 190 km2 and is financially independent from donors, thanks to income from the conservancy’s shared trophy-hunting agreement with Mayuni and Mashi. The conservancy also has plans for developing a lodge and a traditional dance centre.
Bum Hill Community Campsite has beautiful wooden decks looking out over the river in the Bwabwata National Park and is operated fully by the conservancy in agreement with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Here the biggest success is the marked increase in game along the river area bordering the conservancy as a result of reduced poaching.
The Mashi Conservancy (established in 2003) was named after the false mopane tree and local name for the Kwando River. It covers an area of 297 km2 and earns income from a trophy-hunting concession and Namushasha Lodge and is negotiating with other lodges within the conservancy to establish similar joint ventures. The people of Mashi also hope to obtain a concession in Mudumu National Park, which would boost the income of the conservancy considerably.
Namushasha Lodge, overlooking a quiet- backwater of the Kwando River, was opened in 1996, but initially, under its previous ownership, had little involvement with the conservancy. It now has a 15-year agreement with the conservancy, under which it pays a percentage of net turnover.
Camp Kwando, which opened on the banks of the Kwando River in 1992, has been paying a yearly fee to the traditional authorities.
Myalo Campsite has been isolated by flood waters in recent years. There are plans afoot to use the site for a lodge.
The Sobbe Conservancy (esta-blished in 2006) is situated in the woodland hinterland of the Kwando River. It covers 404 km2 and is home to around 2 000 mostly Sifwe-speaking people. This newest conservancy is starting to supply water points for wildlife and is looking to attract tourism investors.
In the protected area of the Mudumu National Park, Wilderness Safaris operates Lianshulu Lodge and Lianshulu Bush Lodge, offering game drives in the park and boat trips along the Kwando River. Wilderness pays a land-lease fee directly to the MET for the lodges in the Mudumu National Park. Wilderness also operates Lianshulu Wilderness Camp in the Balyerwa Conservancy (established in 2006) area on the border of the park. Wilderness Safaris pays a percentage of gross revenue after taxes directly to the conservancy.
This article appeared in the 2010/11 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.
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