NAMIBIA has, for the second time, received the international Gift to the Earth Award from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in recognition of its extraordinary conservation success and empowerment of its rural people.
The prestigious award was received by President Hifikepunye Pohamba on behalf of Namibia during the official opening ceremony of the 10th Adventure Travel World Summit in Windhoek on Saturday.
Namibia was the first country to include the protection of its environment in the constitution when the first four conservation areas were formed. It was also the same year when, in recognition of its innovative legislation power that was developed over its environment, Founding President Sam Nujoma was presented with the Gift to the Earth in October 1998.
Fifteen years later, the country now boasts of over 79 conservancies covering 19.5% of its land. The country also boasts of the largest free-roaming population of rhinos in the world and predators such as cheetahs, leopards and lions have increased in numbers as a result of communal conservancy.
Pohamba, who expressed his gratitude for the accolade, said the world's attention was now focused on what Namibia offers, not only in terms of its unique wildlife and landscape, but in conservation strategies and successes.
"Namibia's Constitution outlines the protection of our environment. One of our successful conservation efforts is the establishment of our conservancies to protect our wildlife, to minimise human-wildlife conflict and also to derive benefits from our tourism industry," he said.
Pohamba also said the fact that the country has been chosen and recognised for its conservation efforts for the second time is something Namibians should be proud of.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria, who presented the gift to Pohamba, said Namibia's success story on conservation is one that many nations should learn from and that the country's accolade in communal conservation serves as a global model.
"I have been to many countries around the world, but I find Namibia's conservation truly remarkable. The ideas and principles behind Namibia's communal conservancy movement are now studied by over 20 countries from Africa, Asia, and the Americas with a view to similarly devolve environmental management responsibility and the benefits from wildlife and tourism to rural communities," he said.
The opening of the summit also saw communal game guards from all the 79 conservancies receiving equipment donations valued at N$1 million, including sleeping bags from the US-based Recreation Equipment Incorporated, in recognition of their outstanding work.
The WWF Award is a public acclamation of conservation action, which demonstrates environmental leadership and is a global significant contribution to the protection of the natural world. The award is presented to presidents and nations in recognition of conservation successes, including the empowerment of rural people.