DESPITE the shocking increase of elephant and rhino poaching in the country last year, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism decided to concentrate on the positives for the coming year under its new minister.
Minister Uahekua Herunga, who took over from Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah late last year following her move to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, addressed his staff for the first time this year on Friday.
The ministry spent 71% of its last budget and this number is expected to overtake the 98% mark this year instead of sending money back to treasury. "We were given a set budget to achieve certain tasks and we must make sure we use all the money for these purposes," Herunga said.
The minister highlighted several successes of the ministry which he said were contingent on Ndaitwah's achievements. One of these success stories is Namibia's hosting of the World Adventure and Travel Summit in October this year.
Another was Namibia coming second to South Korea in the bid to host the UN's Green Climate Fund. The minister said coming second to South Korea was a major achievement.
The ministry recorded a 1,1 million increase in tourist numbers for 2011. However, during last year there was a 10% drop in overseas tourists and a 4,4% increase in tourist numbers from the African continent.
The recent shipping of 23 animals of 20 species to Cuba was also marked as a success by the ministry. "The animals have adapted well in their new environment and some have already started multiplying," said Herunga.
He also addressed the issue of human-wildlife conflict, adding that the ministry needs to find a middle ground that will guard the survival and welfare of people and animals alike.
He said the ministry has at least overcome a few challenges in this regard by compensating those who have suffered losses due to wildlife destroying their property.
The new minister further urged his colleagues to work hard towards implementing laws and policies. "These are the things the ministry will be judged on," he said.