Wildlife crime, human-wildlife conflict, restricted wildlife movements, fire management and misguided land-use are among the most pressing issues currently affecting Namibia and its four (4) neighbouring countries: Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Namibia recently launched its fifth National Development Plan (NDP 5) in 2017. NDP 5 encourages collaboration with regional neighbours on common environmental challenges.
In response to addressing the challenges at hand, the 5 countries have formally agreed to form a Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA), referred to as Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) that aims to enhance their capacities to jointly deal with the current problems.
Covering over 520,000 km2, the KAZA TFCA is the largest transfrontier conservation area at the global level, which is a collaboration between five (5) partner countries: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe that are aiming to maintain ecological integrity across a multiple-use landscape. KAZA TFCA is biodiversity rich and is home to the largest concentration of elephants in the world. It comprises more than 20 National Parks, 85 Forest Reserves, 22 Conservancies, 11 Sanctuaries, 103 Wildlife Management Areas, and 11 Game Management Areas
Today, the most common challenges facing the KAZA TFCAs, particularly on the Namibian side are: poaching, human-wildlife conflict, excessive burning, restricted wildlife movements along the Botswana-Namibia border, lack of accurate and detailed land-use information for the Wildlife Dispersal Areas (WDAs) and limited transboundary infrastructure.
Many communities within the KAZA TFCA highly depend on the natural resources (land, rivers and forests) with their livelihoods. Access to these resources, however, is limited and specifically in Namibia, communities feel restricted one the use of land. This situation exacerbates their vulnerability to wildlife impact and threatens the success of conservation, often pushing people to turn towards illegal activities such as poaching.
Elephants, especially, that perceived as one of the biggest threats to human lives, although incidents rarely happen, are threatened by alarming levels of poaching. This is due to the high value of ivory, which is in high demand in Asian countries. The problem is further exacerbated by the strong link with the neighbouring countries within the KAZA transboundary, as there are reportedly organised syndicates that are associated with other countries. Overall, elephant poaching is quite a big threat to Namibia as a country, particular due to a lack of awareness of their value, the need to conserve them and the impact that poaching has on them.
Namibia's recently launched fifth National Development Plan (NDP 5) underscores the interconnectedness of all efforts towards economic progression, social transformation, environmental sustainability and good governance and encourages collaboration with regional neighbours. Over the past few years, a number of transboundary solutions have improved communities' often negative attitude towards wildlife and its conservation:
KAZA Excellency Tour: The KAZA Excellency Tour is set to be a milestone collaborative effort in economic growth, cultural preservation, job creation and environmental sustainability within the region, continent and global community. Specifically in Namibia the benefits of the tour has the potential to positively affect conservation efforts, the environment and eco-tourism within the country. The KAZA Excellency tour route will officially open to the public in February 2018.
The tour was officially launched in November 2017:
UN Resident Coordinator (RC) and UNDP Resident Representative (RR) to Namibia, Ms Kiki Gbeho, accompanied a delegation of 7 Ambassadors accredited to Namibia, Charges from Angola and Libya, the Managing Director (MD) of NWR, Ms. Zelna Hengari and the Deputy Minister of International Relations Maureen Hinda, to participate in a six-day excursion. Undertaken within the framework of South-South Cooperation, the delegation met their counterparts within the cross-border terrain. They exchanged ideas on the sustainable use of biodiversity and culture to maximize the tourism benefits with focus on access and benefit sharing particularly for the remotely located areas of southern Africa and on how to foster partnerships for tourism advancement in line with the SDGs.
The launch, also supplemented efforts to commemorate the 2017UN international Year of Sustainable Tourism (IY2017) and, through its lead female figures ultimately served as ideal fit, to match the global 10 Special Ambassadors of the IY2017, that include Her Excellency Ellen Johnson, former President of Liberia.
KAZA TFCA Master Integrated Development Plan (MIDP): Implemented by all five countries in the region, this plan provides strategic guidance towards the development of the KAZA TFCA at the regional level, over a period of 5 years i.e. 2015 – 2020. This can be achieved through: 1) providing for sustainable conservation and management of transboundary natural resources; 2) promotion of harmonisation of policies, strategies and practices for managing the shared natural resources across the KAZA TFCA landscape; 3) providing for the development of infrastructure which will allow economic integration, specifically the promotion of regional tourism products across boundaries and private sector investment; and; 4) providing benefits to local communities within and adjacent to key conservation areas within the KAZA TFCA through the development of tourism and the protection of natural and cultural resources.
Protected Areas System Strengthening (PASS) Project: The PASS Project is a project for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Implemented by UNDP, the project’s aim is to assist MET in addressing the new challenges that are affecting the management of Protected Areas (PAs). The objective of this project is to ensure that the Protected Areas System of Namibia is strengthened and is sustainably financed through improving current systems for park entry and revenue generation mechanisms, law enforcement strategies and mechanisms to address wildlife crimes (particularly the poaching of high value species), as well as fire management in protected areas.
- With support from the PASS project, MET has done/ is doing the following:• Protecting high value species of elephants against poaching in the Bwabwata National Park and surrounding areas through continuous anti-poaching patrolling and awareness raising activities.
- Joined forces with the Namibian Police (NAMPOL) and Ministry of Defence (MoD), towards anti-poaching in well-known poaching hotspots, especially Bwabwata National Park with its large population of elephants.
- Developed a National Fire Management Strategy for Protected Areas (PAs), as an overall framework for fire management in Namibia’s PAs.
- Further developed protected area specific Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for fire management. The development of SOPs for the first two (2) PAs has already started.
Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM):
In Namibia, the management of wildlife is not only a priority in PAs, but also beyond PA boundaries. The proclamation of PAs and the management of wildlife in Namibia at large are guided by the Nature Conservation Ordinance No. 4 of 1975. This ordinance was amended in 1996, such that it devolved communities’ rights over the protection of wildlife, while at the same time yielding economic benefits.
In line with the ordinance, a written permission is needed for hunting in the protected areas and on communal land.
While the provisions of the ordinance are often ignored, due to the economic value of the elephant ivory, communities have been placing efforts in the protection of wildlife within the communal areas, including elephants through the Community Based Natural Resources (CBNRM) schemes.
Reports have revealed that various CBNRM schemes have been successful in Namibia, which has led to the registration of more conservancies in the Zambezi Region of Namibia, which is part of the KAZA TFCA.