NNF/Avis Environmental Education Fund – To promote increased awareness and environmental educationJuly 15, 2012
Namibia’s environmental information service – Profiling NamibiaJuly 15, 2012
by Dorothy Wamunyima, NNF project coordinator
I can’t hold back my excitement on the subject of how well the Namibia Nature Foundation has facilitated horizontal links of information-sharing and awareness, expediting dialogues between communities and governments, both within Namibia and on a transboundary basis. In just over a decade the NNF and partners have helped facilitate vertical links of information, interaction and accountability across the broader Namibian community, from village to traditional authority to regional/district authority to national government and the basin-wide commission established to this end.
The permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM) was established in 1994 by the governments of Angola, Botswana and Namibia – the three basin countries – to develop an integrated basin-wide management plan to guide the future development and management of the basin. The Okavango River Basin is one of the most important transboundary natural resources in the region, let alone the world!
To promote the sustainable management of natural resources in the Okavango River Basin, the NNF was nominated as the key Namibian implementing organisation on the Every River has its People (ERP) project funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). The project, which ran from 2000—2009, benefited the Okavango River Basin residents and those of the three countries involved, through promoting and facilitating effective participation of basin stakeholders in decision-making and management of resources, in particular water-related resources.
The ERP project enhanced community participation in the management planning process for the basin through: increasing- the capacity of communities and other local stakeholders to participate effectively in decision-making about natural resource management of the Okavango River Basin; and developing mechanisms to promote and facilitate the participation of communities and other local stakeholders in natural resource management and decision-making, particularly those related to water resources, at local, national and regional levels. In the Kavango Region particularly, the NNF and the ERP project played a major role in engaging people at grassroots level as the custodians of the basin resources.
As a key component of the ERP project, targeted community initiatives were developed, and many are still ongoing. These initiatives range from local household level to broader community engagement. They include:
• the gazetting of conservancies/community forests;
• the development of emerging conservancies/community forests;
• the establishment of conservation agriculture (or farming);
• the marketing and sustainable harvesting of indigenous natural products;
• the development of community campsites; and
• the development of cottage industries such as jam making, beekeeping and bird guiding.
Importantly, and linked to every aspect of the ERP project, good governance systems were developed and supported at all levels, which ensured the equitable inclusion in decision-making of multiple stakeholders, particularly local resource users. According to many across the region, the ERP project has been one of the top best-practice models for transboundary integrated water-resource management.
Implementation across three countries
The ERP project was implemented in Angola by ACADIR and partners; in Botswana by the Kalahari Conservation Society in collaboration with IUCN-Botswana and other partners; and in Namibia by the NNF working closely with the IRDNC, DRFN and Rössing Foundation. Following the success of the ERP project, a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) for the Okavango River Basin was completed in 2010. The TDA was a careful scientific and technical assessment of the Okavango – looking at water quantity and quali-ty, the characteristics of ecosystems all along the river, and the needs and nature of the communities, politics and institutions the river connects.
The TDA is the basis for the elaboration of a Strategic Action Plan for the Okavango River Basin, which will hopefully improve the living standards of people in all three countries through coordinated development while maintaining its environmental integrity. Specifically, the effects of development along the river are now clearly articulated by water managers, ecologists, engineers and economists, which will enable decision-makers to better understand, for example, how a dam might supply water for irrigation and generate electric power, while altering seasonal flows and harming breeding of important animal species in a downstream wetland. Through the involvement of the NNF and its partner in the SAREP, ongoing development and contribution to Namibia’s Vision 2030 will be supported as we move to strengthen management across our borders.
An important legacy of the ERP project was the establishment of the Okavango River Basin Management (OkBMC) in 2008, which continues to build basin stakeholder capacity, and provide valuable support and contribution towards the planning and implementation in the Namibian part of the Okavango basin. These processes are required to facilitate the development of shared agendas and objectives across the basin, as well as provide a platform for underta-king joint planning, joint identification of priorities, and developing joint strate-gies. In this way, unilateral actions by individual sectors and countries can be avoided. To support this, the OkBMC will be playing a linking role between all Namibian partners.
Most recently the NNF, in collaboration with the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, has embraced the Southern African Regional Environmental Programme (SAREP), which was formalised in late 2010 to support the initiatives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to integrate improved water and sanitation services with strategies that address threats to ecosystem services and biodiversity within priority-shared river basins. Supported by USAID, SAREP seeks to strengthen cooperation and regional capacity to adapt and respond to the effects of climate change, and in particular to support the efforts of OKACOM, and more locally, OkBMC.
The SAREP initiative will continue to improve transboundary natural resource management in SADC with a focus on the Okavango River Basin and expanding across into the Caprivi section of the Kwando and Zambezi river basins in Namibia. Through the involvement of the NNF and its partner in SAREP, ongoing development and contribution to Namibia’s Vision 2030 will be supported as we move to strengthen management across our borders.
Originally published 2012 Conservation magazine