Integrated Park Management – Improving conservation and reducing poverty

Innovative environmental approaches – Getting there
July 15, 2012
Rhino conservation in the Kunene Region
July 15, 2012
Innovative environmental approaches – Getting there
July 15, 2012
Rhino conservation in the Kunene Region
July 15, 2012

by Ed Humphrey, Project Manager, Bwabwata, Mudumu and Mamili Parks Project, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, with input from Ralph Kadel, Senior Project Manager, and Lydia von Krosigk, Project Manager, KfW Agriculture and Natural Resources Division

Relatively small parks, conservancies and community forests generally characterise protected areas in the Kavango and Caprivi regions, which are densely populated relative to other parts of Namibia. According to the National Planning Commission, high levels of poverty also characterise these two regions. 

Namibia’s north-eastern regions also face the need to manage large populations of highly mobile and destructive wildlife species such as elephant, buffalo and, to a lesser extent, hippo, and the need to address threats to human life and livestock caused by lion and crocodile. Furthermore, fire, wildlife diseases, wildlife crime, tourism develop-ment and the harmonisation of land uses are major regional challenges.

The result is that parks, conservancies and community forests in the north-east are interdependent. Poor land use, fire management and wildlife crime in one area will have a negative impact on another. Also, the sustainability of a park is questionable if its adjoining communities are left undeveloped with high levels of poverty and heavily depleted natural resources. However, well co-ordinated land-use practices across adjoining areas can improve the resource base and enable new economic opportunities.

The parks in north-eastern Namibia are critically important for the sustainability of conservancies and community forests, which due to their size and high-density settlement, are not individually viable as core areas for tourism and wildlife breeding and utilisation. Without the parks, tourism development and trophy hunting in conservancies would not be possible. For these reasons holistic, integrated approaches to natural resource management and land-use planning at a landscape level are essential for this north-eastern region of Namibia.

Putting the concept into practice

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), with support from the Bwabwata, Mudumu and Mamili (BMM) Parks Project, is putting this concept into practice through new and groundbreaking interventions supported financially by the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW. Such interventions include preparation of a strategic management plan for the north-eastern parks, which sets the policy framework to guide park management on a range of issues, including those trans-boundary challenges outlined in the introduction. Park-level management systems and tools have also been prepared, as guided by the strategic framework, and include annual and monthly work calendars, monitoring tools (such as the Event Book System), development plans and park zoning. A business plan for the north-eastern parks was prepared to value all conservation activities and planned developments, and to recommend restructuring of the north-eastern parks budget and staff establishment.

Given the old and unsuitable infrastructure inherited by the MET from the military at independence, a major focus of the BMM Parks Project has been planning a proper park-management infrastructure, including park offices, visitor facilities, staff housing and important support services like the provision of water, sewerage and electricity. Special efforts have been made to consider environmental sustainability in the design and construction of this infrastructure, including the use of recycled building material, bio-gas and solar energy. The first model park-management station is currently under construction at Mahango in Bwabwata National Park.

Given the need to manage a range of issues at a landscape level in partnership with a number of different stakeholders, the MET has established several collaboration forums. These include the Mudumu North Complex, Mudumu South Complex, the Bwabwata Technical Committee, Khaudum North Complex, and a natural-resource-management working group with the residents inside Bwabwata National Park. Such forums are becoming increasingly important to address matters of mutual concern, ensure an integrated approach, and facilitate community involvement in park planning and development. They are also proving to be very effective as communication platforms for sharing information about what different agencies are doing, and for preparing collaborative work plans for joint actions.

Recreational framework

The BMM Parks Project has also prepared a tourism development plan for the BMM parks, which provides a develop-ment framework for optimising tourism in the parks without compromising the integrity of important habitats, particularly the rivers and wetlands. Guided by the National Policy on Tourism and Wildlife Concessions on State Land (2007), the tourism plan identifies development opportunities that are prioritised for awarding to neighbouring and resident communities. A range of new concessions has been identified, including lodges, campsites, trophy hunting, guided activities such as walking, boating and drives. It is envisaged that over time these tourism concessions might create around 600 new permanent jobs with an annual wage bill of approximately N$25 million. It is also estimated that around -N$13 million- could be earned in concession fees and a further N$2 million per annum from park-entry fees. The concession fees will help conservancies sustain conservation activities on land adjacent to parks, while the new jobs will play a significant role in reducing poverty.

Namibia’s north-eastern parks and the conservancies and community/state forests, form part of a larger Southern African conservation area that includes iconic destinations such as the Kwando, Zambezi, Kavango, Linyanti and Chobe rivers, Victoria Falls, Okavango Delta, Tsodilo Hills and Chobe National Park. This greater ‘five-countries’ region is widely seen as underdeveloped and having significant untouched tourism potential. In order to tap this promise, the region has become the focus of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), an ambitious initiative of governments and civil society of the five countries, which is also supported by the German Government through KfW and internationally known NGOs such as the Peace Parks Foundation.

Challenges for integrated park management

Significant challenges are being faced through this approach, such as finding long-term, sustainable solutions to human-wildlife conflict. Collaborative or integrated approaches are likely to result in the best solutions to such conflicts. However, ideas urgently need to be translated into actions at a scale that has meaningful impact on the ground.

The transaction costs of local-level conservation in addition to parallel collaborative activities means that there are additional management expenses that need to be financed on a sustainable basis. To date many collaborative activities have been donor-funded. However, mechanisms are urgently needed to ensure such interventions can continue once donor funds are exhausted. This challenge applies to local-level collaborative forums and international programmes such as KAZA.

KAZA faces the further challenge of transforming what is currently still a political-level inter-governmental concept into a relevant and meaningful initiative to local people and conservation practitioners on the ground. There is furthermore the challenge of maintaining management actions and a sense of ownership and empowerment at individual protected area level, which has been the foundation for successful community-based natural-resource management in Namibia. Thus increased collaboration at national and regional level must not be pursued at the expense of local-level action, but in addition to it.

Nevertheless, integrated park management has shown that when all stakeholders collaborate in facing common challenges, including addressing po-verty through local economic development, the conservation of important biodiversity and landscapes can be achieved in a sustainable way.

This article appeared in the 2010/11 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.


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