Desert Research Foundation of Namibia: A tradition of providing opportunitiesJuly 6, 2012
Every River Has Its People: Making a difference where it countsJuly 6, 2012
By Conrad Brain
When a country neglects to invest in its environment, the result is an environmental debt. If the concerned environment is particularly fragile, continued environmental debt can lead to very rapid ecosystem degradation, with disastrous consequences for the nation concerned and the global environment as a whole.
The environmental debt in Namibia was recognised and addressed in a speech given by the country’s first President, Dr Sam Nujoma, in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. In the Green Plan that he presented at this conference, Dr Numjoa highlighted the fact that Namibia had inherited an environmental debt and also, most importantly, he recognised that the environment and sustainable economic development were integrally linked. It was argued, both in the report and by the President, that environmental investment must be implemented and Namibia’s fragile ecosystem saved from the downward spiral of environmental degradation. Subsequently, amidst a flurry of consultations, the mechanisms needed to finance the Green Plan were discussed. The Directorate of Environmental Affairs, along with its partners in the public and private sector, formulated plans and commenced with the development of an environmental trust fund.
Through the passage of an Act of Parliament of the Republic of Namibia, the Environmental Investment Fund was established and published in the Government Gazette in December 2001.
Following this milestone, and five years down the line, the Namibian Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) stands ready and poised to enter the playing field of sustainable economic development through investment in the natural and environmental resources of the country. With an appointed board whose members represent Government, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations, and with the sound basis of a thoroughly reviewed and approved Act, the EIF now stands as a statutory entity outside the public service. It will act as a complement to government programmes and pursue a broad investment portfolio by providing support and economic opportunities and a stake in the use of natural resources to all sectors of society. In so doing, its ultimate objective of protecting the environment while improving the quality of life of the poor and the economic development of this marginalised sector should be reached.
Namibia, more than most countries, has an economic development that is almost totally dependent on its natural resource base. Main economic activities centre on mining, fishing and marine enterprise, agriculture and tourism. Thus, the future of Namibia’s economic growth is integrally linked to a responsible and sustainable use of this precious resource base and the EIF intends to be one of the major investment mechanisms used by Government and private and development partners to assure long-term economic development.
To cut straight to the point of EIF beneficiaries is to go to the heart of the matter. That is not to say that issues of the EIF Strategic Plan and the beneficiaries’ national and international approach to fund raising or bilateral and multilateral donors are unimportant or insignificant. On the contrary. But the jargon that accompanies those vital functions is not wholly understood by those for whom the ultimate benefit is intended and will therefore be spared here. So, in very general terms, the EIF is for all Namibians and more specifically, benefits from the EIF are aimed at rural communities at the economic margins, many of whom live in fragile environmental situations.
Thus said, the EIF will prioritise traditionally disadvantaged communities and provide them with direct economic support through their support organisations or through mechanisms such as conservancies. However, any good thing needs a kick-start and the start-up requirements of the EIF are intended to come from Government and donors alike. Thereafter, the EIF will position itself to become one of the major mechanisms designed to generate a stream of environmental income in perpetuity. This should be realised from direct investment portfolios, from the financing of sustainable economic development activities and from investing in human capital in the long run.
When fully operational, the EIF intends to generate and distribute benefits of approximately N$20 million annually. As bold as this may sound, it should be immensely attainable. Economic research has shown that the international tourist community, for one, is very willing to pay additional fees for conservation, provided fees are used directly for conservation purposes. The EIF fits this requirement perfectly and, in synergy with local, national and other concerned enterprises, a well-managed board and a sound technical advisory panel, the EIF stands ready to strike and make a difference, improving the future for Namibia and all Namibians.
This article appeared in the 2006/7 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.