… “And this story is based on the sustainable use of our natural resources.”
Namibia’s former Tourism Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah urged the Adventure Travel community gathered in Swakopmund for their first World Summit in Africa, to accept the fact that Namibia’s rural communities should be allowed to benefit from their resources, in the same way that any business anywhere in the world benefits from theirs.
“As a nation we are committed to conservation. It is based on our constitution and we have been successful.” Under enthusiastic applause she told the
700 delegates that when the United Nations adopted a resolution in the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing in 2010, which required member states to at least have 16% of their landmass under some form of conservation management, “Namibia just kept quiet, because we already had more than 40% and now we have 46%!”
“We have 70 registered Conservancies now.Plus minus 250 thousand people are able to sustain their families and send their children to school. We have the biggest population of free roaming cheetah in the world; the black rhino was almost extinct, now we translocate them to private farms and conservancies to be looked after. We had a population of 7,500 elephant in 1998, not we have 20,000. But still we only have a quota from CITES for harvesting 90 per year.”
Minister Ndaitwah, who is currently Namibia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, asked the delegates to support Namibia’s programme of Community Based Natural Resource Management, because since Independence in 1990, biodiversity had increased and wildlife had recovered.
But she also urged the audience to accept the fact that trophy hunting was part of the sustainable use. “We must be open about it. In a country like Namibia, if one day you say no more trophy hunting, then there will be no more conservancies. When there is no benefit from wildlife, and the elephants threaten them or destroy their water points or kill their livestock, they will just destroy it. If we do away with trophy hunting, we will have to do away with conservancies.
Now, if wild animals cause a problem, the community calls the officials and they make a plan. If wildlife do not have a value that rural people can benefit from, then they will not look after it. They will destroy it.”
“You think that harvesting is destroying wildlife? In Namibia, in fact, it preserves wildlife. We conduct game counts on foot and with vehicles. Here, the sustainable use of natural resources becomes meaningful, because it means the sharing of benefits.”
“Government can come up with good programmes and policies, but if the community does not buy in, it will not work. That is why we ask communities what they want and how they want to do it. We have meetings under trees in remote areas. Our politicians are informed about what the people want and we commit ourselves to put up frameworks to protect and preserve our biodiversity and fragile environment. Namibia has achieved a lasting balance between conservation and rural development.
She thanked NGOs and donor agencies for assisting Namibia to train communities. “When it comes to conservation, people must understand what they are conserving and why.”