Namibia is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Africa, owing to its vast wildlife and natural resources. This is because the country's parks and game reserves have enjoyed a long spell of no serious poaching, thanks to strong measures by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
A number of countries in Southern Africa have recently seen an escalation in poaching. Recent cases have shown that those involved have become more sophisticated in the way they carry out these illegal activities. In anticipation of an escalation of poaching, the Namibian Government has introduced a number of activities to counter the possible increase in illegal hunting.
Strengthening of the Protected Areas Network Project (SPAN) aims to improve park management in Namibia. It has contributed significantly to Namibia's national and local economy through park tourism. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme. The 6-year project began January 2006 and has been tackling park management issues.
Over the past four years SPAN has invested in training personnel to better manage security of parks. 85 staff have been trained in law enforcement courses offered jointly by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Namibian Police. The course comprises of both theoretical and practical sessions on how to conduct investigations of wildlife crime. The course is accredited and successful participants and appointed as Peace officers.
The project has made progress in its effort to secure sustainable financing for Protected Areas (PA). Economic analysis of the PA system indicates that it contributed up to 6 percent of the GDP through park based tourism only, without including other ecosystem services values. Using these study results, the Government increased the annual budget for park management and development by 310 percent in the last four years.
The study also led to successful mobilization of a large amount of additional donor funding for PAs, including the $67 million from the US Government's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) with $40.5 million direct investment in Etosha National Park management infrastructure. This is testimony to the MCA's recognition that park management effectiveness has a great impact on poverty alleviation.
The project also co-funds the upgrading of the radio system in Etosha National Park together with the Game Product Trust Fund (GPTF). This involves the purchase of communication radios, installation of two towers and servicing of radio systems. This project will improve coverage in the park and the surrounding areas. Once completed, the system would allow easy communication between main stations and staff members carrying out patrols and other related duties.
Two rubberduck boats for Etosha National park were purchased last year as part of the Project Innovation Grant. The boats are useful in reaching an area in the park that is annually cut off from the rest of the park by heavy floods. Because the area was not reachable, law enforcement was very minimal and there was an increase in poaching, cutting of trees, cattle grazing in the park and other illegal activities inside the park. The two boats allow staff members to effectively patrol the area that had been inaccessible to vehicle and on foot.
Each boat can carry up to 4 people and is powered by a battery engine. They are noise free and have also been used in research of the parks eco-system.