Perhaps the face of trophy hunting in Namibia is about to change. Over five days at Eagle Rock Hunting Academy, nine participants from the Kunene conservancies of Sesfontein, Torra, Puros and Tsiseb, as well as the Kyaramacan Association, came together on the Outfitters Course, to learn from legendary professional hunter Volker Grellmann how to set up a hunting operator’s business.
Government is keen to see a greater involvement of indigenous Namibians in the hunting industry. Between seven and eight thousand hunters visit Namibia every year, bringing significant revenue to the hospitality industry and its employees, and to trophy hunting operators.
The training course at Grellman’s Etango Game Ranch was a NAPHA initiative to bring Namibians from communal conservancy areas into the industry as hunting operators. These are the companies that sell hunts to clients, contract professional hunters to run them, and provide accommodation and logistics. Increasingly, clients want to understand local conditions and customs, and to talk to local guides and hunters around the camp fire. According to Grellmann, many foreign hunters would be excited to camp under the stars or sleep in a Damara or Himba hut, and hunt with a professional, conservancy based hunting company.
Marketing is the biggest problem for small start-up companies in rural areas without access to the internet or the capital to set up stalls at hunting fairs in the USA and Germany. But that is where NAPHA comes in, says Association President Denker. NAPHA is prepared to market a local indigenous product, provided it is fully professional.
Denker also sees a conservation spin-off. As a hunter he has encountered poachers and personally given chase. Conservancies derive benefits from wildlife, through trophy hunting, meat harvesting, and photographic tourism. Conservancy hunting operators would have an incentive to make doubly sure that poachers are not taking game that belongs to the conservancy.
Everybody admits that there is a long road ahead. Most of the participants were trackers, game guards and ordinary conservancy members without any business experience. Namibia’s hunting operators are people who have started their own companies, raised capital, and honed their business skills in the international market for decades. The course at Eagle Rock covered the nuts and bolts of the business, but no amount of training will make an entrepreneur.
Some of the course participants may work for a while with established companies, learning the ropes. If one or two of them do start their own companies, they will need mentoring which, like the marketing, NAPHA promises to provide
Ivelda Guriras is the Tsiseb Conservancy administrator, a female indigenous Namibian, and a world away from the current image of hunting operators. She worked as an administrator in Windhoek before relocating to her home at Uis. She sees hunting as the right kind of business to develop in Tsiseb conservancy and believes that, with help, she could start up and run an operator’s business.
Tsiseb is where Kai-Uwe Denker operates as a professional hunter. As President of NAPHA, Denker is confident that Namibian Conservancies have something very different and special to offer.