On Friday, 10 October 2014, the long awaited formal opening of the 420 square kilometers Mangetti National Park took place when Minister of Environment and Tourism Uahekua Herunga officially opened the park.
The ceremony represented the final stop to a process that began decades ago, when the Mangetti was fenced off in 1973 and 1974 as a Game Camp. At that time, the goal was to generate cash through game farming, trophy hunting, live game sales and other measures.
Today, the Mangetti National Park, situated 110km south of Rundu, is home to a thriving collection of wildlife, including more than 400 elands and over 200 blue wildebeest found within its boundaries.
Moreover, trophy hunting remains a primary source of income for the communities living alongside the park. Since the proclamation of the Mangetti National Park in 2008, trophy hunting has generated close to N$1,2 million within the park for the Ukwangali Traditional Authority and the Kavango Regional Council.
The park generates around N$9 hundred thousand each year, half of which goes to the communities living alongside the park through the existing Memorandum of Agreement between the MET, the Ukwangali Traditional Authority and the Kavango Regional Council.
Herunga on Friday briefly sketched the historic milestones of the park. He noted that following its initial fencing off as a game camp, the newly independent Namibian government accepted full responsiblity for the camp after 1990. MET worked closely with the Ukwangali Traditional authority, who have ancient traditional links to the park land.
Starting 1992, the Ukwangali authority began pressurising government to declare the area as a conservation area.
Herunga praised Daniel Sitentu, the leader of the Traditional Authority, for not letting up on campaigning for the park to be proclaimed. Eventually, MET proclaimed the Mangetti area as a national park in September 2008.
On Friday, the Minister formally opened the park for “tourism and the general public”. He pointed out that “there will only be one entrance for tourism and the public and one will have to go through the authorities and a certain fee has to be paid for entrance …”.
Herunga explained that since 2008, government and the park authorities and communities have worked ceaselessly at “putting tourism infrastructure in place, such as the tourism reception and proper road network. Game has also been reintroduced to the park to boost the already existing population and attract tourism”.
The park features several “special” features, which Herunga listed as follows:
According to Herunga, the park’s rich Eco-system present a valuable opportunity to neighbouring communities who can “utilise these resources in a sustainable manner”.
The benefits of the park are not limited to the local environment. The Minister said. “In addition to key biodiversity conservation roles, ecosystem services values and local community benefits of the park, the Mangetti National Park will broadly contribute to the country’s fast growing tourism industry and is therefore recognised as having considerable potential to contribute to poverty reduction and local and national economic development”.
There are also plans to build a bush lodge in the park and with that, to award a tourism concession to bidders, further expanding the park’s value to tourism.
The MET is focused on creating benefits to the communities living nearby, ensuring that Namibia’s reputation as a leader in people-orientated conservation remains intact. Herunga said it is a priority of the government to ensure that the communal farmers and rural communities in the area “derive a direct income from sustainable use of wildlife and tourism activities”.