Namibians Should Be Proud of Our Commitment to Biodiversity

15 November 2018

ENVIRONMENT and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta recently announced that a new law to protect wildlife protected areas will come into play next year.

This bill is expected to ensure wildlife and protected area management contribute in the most efficient way to sustainable development, poverty reduction and poverty eradication.

However, such bold commitment to our wildlife is not something Namibia has recently embarked upon. We have for some time been a beacon of conservation on the continent, and as Namibians we should be proud that we led the way in the fight to protect biodiversity.

The narrative surrounding wildlife in Africa is not always a positive one, for many people conservation is seen as at odds with their livelihoods, whether it farmers who fear elephants destroying their crops, or herdsman fearing lions might take their cattle - conservation in Africa is not as simple as the Western world might think.

However, in Namibia we have established a more nuanced approach to conservation and the key to its success is simple, it's us - Namibians.

From the beginning, the Namibian approach to combatting wildlife crime and protecting biodiversity has relied strongly upon the interests of local people leading the charge, and I for one am grateful for that. Giving us, the local community, the right to sustainably exploit the natural beauty we have been blessed with has incentivised all generations to feel a sense of stewardship over our land and that is why it thrives. We do not feel the same pressures as other African communities to succumb to wildlife crime, or mismanagement of our land. In fact, over the past 20 years, 200 communal conservancy enterprises in Namibia have generated over N$81 million in financial and economic benefits for Namibians.

We have a system that works, a system where the community is empowered, employed and passionate about our natural heritage. The results speak for themselves.

For example, in the last six months, no rhinos have been lost to poachers. Year on year there has been an increase in wildlife, with elephant populations rising from 13 000 to 20 000 in the last decade and where once lion populations were at a critical level of just 12 in the north-west, they now total 130.

We cannot do it alone, however. While Namibia has established a strong community focused conservation system, not all our neighbours have been as lucky, and if we are not all working together we could quite quickly lose some of those species we hold most dear.

Our government should use the African Biodiversity Summit currently under way in Egypt to implore fellow leaders to take note of the success we have seen in Namibia and join us in combatting the loss of habitats and wildlife.

Africa has many nations, many communities and many cultures, but we are one continent and we have one collective duty to protect the lands we were blessed with and conserve them in a way that benefits us all.

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