Youth and conservation were the focus of a hard fought sports tournament and gala dinner at ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy last weekend. The conservancy lies between Kunene north and south, beneath the Grootberg pass which connects Palmwag and Kamanjab.
Conservancy manager Hilga /Gawises sees sport as a way to bring youngsters together and to assist in the conservation work of ≠Khoadi-//Hôas, which employs 6 game guards to patrol the area on foot and in donkey carts to prevent poaching, and to report of human wildlife conflict incidents.
The gala dinner on Saturday night was a fundraiser for a new initiative to involve young people, many of whom are unemployed, in conservation, and to teach them about wild animals in the area.
According to Mona Lisa, one of local the teenagers, soccer and netball are good ways to keep youngsters out of trouble. She would like to see the new youth project start a garden, or build a youth centre. She also wants training on what to do if she is confronted with an elephant or rhino. Just a day before, a group of elephants charged a donkey cart near Puros, sending the driver and passengers fleeing, and destroying the cart
In the hall at the Grootberg location, tables were decorated and the walls covered with pictures of wildlife donated by WWF. Representatives of Save the Rhino Trust, NACSO, WWF and neighbouring conservancies enjoyed the gala dinner which raised N$28,000 for the new conservation youth fund. Donors included Kunene Regional Council, with sponsorship of N$10,000, WWF which contributed N$5,000, and IRDNC which gave N$2,500. Individuals paid N$100 each for a seat, and Hadako Farming and a professional hunter donated sports kits and T shirts.
The theme was ‘Zero Tolerance for Poaching’, and there was huge applause for 12 school children from Erwe and Anker primary schools who competed for prizes in a pageant on conservation themes. The winning girl, Innoceatia Araes, a grade 7 learner, spoke with passion about the cheetah. Although predators attack conservancy livestock, they also bring tourists and income to the area, she said. Aldry !Awiseb for the boys spoke about elephants and the damage that they do to farmer’s boreholes, but he stressed the need to protect them for future generations “so that my grandchild’s child can see them.”
≠Khoadi-//Hôas hopes to raise additional funding from tourists who visit the area to see the spectacular Klip River Valley from Grootberg Lodge, owned by the conservancy, where black rhinos and elephants can be found. Committee member Haral Afrikaaner suggested creating additional game guard posts in the endangered species area of the conservancy. With sustainable funding, it should be possible to run youth workshops on wildlife and conservation, and to stage regular sports tournaments.
≠Khoadi-//Hôas won the netball trophy provided by Higla /Gawises and Torra Conservancy took the gleaming soccer cup donated by Jo Tagg, after a tough final in the afternoon sun beneath the Grootberg.