“It went past in the blink of an eye,” said Chris Weaver, Managing Director of WWF in Namibia, talking about his experience of contributing to Namibia’s conservation success story. The occasion was the handing over of a commemorative plaque, and a congratulatory video call from Roberto Troya, who is responsible for WWF US programme offices.
Chris has been leading the WWF Programme Office in Namibia since 1993. His leadership and fund-raising efforts have been instrumental in supporting the communal conservancy movement, and his tireless efforts to develop partnerships have contributed to the advancement of a world-renowned conservation programme.
Starting his career in the southwest United States in 1977, Weaver worked with several native American tribes, including the Navaho and Apache, as well as federal agencies and private landowners on the conduct of natural resource inventories, management plans, and environmental impact assessments. He then moved to Africa, where he worked in Lesotho on the USAID-funded projects, assisting rural communities to gain from improved rangeland, livestock, and agricultural practices.
In 1993 Weaver moved to Namibia to serve as the Chief of Party for what became the highly regarded USAID-funded Living In A Finite Environment (LIFE) Project. Thirty years ago, the situation looked very different with much of the wildlife on Namibia’s communal lands was critically threatened. Due to a combination of drought and poaching, species were in danger of local extinction, especially black rhino and Namibia’s desert elephant.
Weaver worked with dedicated Namibian conservationists who had appreciated that without involving the local communities that live with the wildlife, and allowing legal benefits to be created, sustainable conservation in Namibia would not be possible. Weaver played a significant coordinating role, together with stakeholders and partners, to develop the legal and institutional framework that enabled the devolution of ownership of natural resources to local users through the establishment of communal conservancies.
Now, the conservancy model is recognized globally and more than 20 countries from Asia, Africa, Europe and America have studied its application. Under Weaver’s management, WWF in Namibia has become a strong functional team, with its efforts now extending beyond to Namibia by providing an important role in the support to KAZA: a five-country transfrontier conservation area.
Over the years Weaver has written and contributed to many papers and publications with other respected academics and conservationists. He has been instrumental in bringing young Namibians into the conservation programme, people who, he hopes, will take up the work beyond the next 25 years.