On 3 December 2021 in Namibia's far northwestern Opuwo, conservation NGOs such as Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) together with Namibia Development Trust (NDT), and Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), celebrated the perseverance and hard work of the Kunene Women for Conservation group.
The celebration took place during their annual agenda planning meeting that was facilitated by the three organisations under the theme “Improving Governance in the National Community-based Natural Resource Management Programme project”.
The intended impact of this project is to improve governance within the Namibian CBNRM programme. The project further aims to improve equitable benefit distribution through enhanced accountability of management structures and active community inclusion in decision-making. Financially supported by the European Union Delegation to Namibia, this project is coordinated and implemented by a consortium comprising of NDT, IRDNC and NNF as the lead implementing partner, with the coordination of the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations-NACSO’s Institutional Development Working Group.
The event was opened by NNF communications officer Disney Andreas who discussed the benefit that conservancies have through their right over natural resources such as wildlife and the opportunity that the Women for Conservation (WfC) group has in ensuring these are sustainably utilised and benefits accrued to members. Strong governance, accountability and equitable distribution of benefits all form part of the priority areas for this intervention of which the partners want to work closely with women groups to strengthen conservancies and the wider programme. The discussion was then led by the WfC chairperson Ms Tjavarekua, who mentioned that she was very pleased with the visit from the project’s communications team and that a dream has become a reality because of the acknowledgement received from the EU. Ms Tjavarekua stated that: “Women have a voice within the communities too, and we also uptake the role of a mother, not only to our households but to our communities. It is therefore important for us to take lead in conservation together with the men in our conservancies.”
The Women for Conservation initiative was started in 2018 during a four day field trip to Ombonde People’s Park. The trip was attended by several conservation conscious individuals including IRDNC Executive Director Mr John Kasaona, founder of IRDNC, the late Garth Owen-Smith, and the Kunene Regional Communal Conservancy Association and chairperson of Omatendeka conservancy. Amongst these important heads, a decision was made, and a blessing was given to the formation of the group by the women who all believed that women in rural areas deserve a voice in conservation. The group has actively completed training on gardening, poultry and pig farming and a plot has already been secured in Orupupa conservancy for intended poultry farming. With external donor support, the group successfully established a living museum in the Ehirovipuka conservancy. The women have taken the initiative to ensure the group is a well-established legal entity with a bank account that is sustained with a monthly contribution of N$100.00 by the chairperson.
Nabot Mbeeli, NNF’s Senior CBNRM Coordinator briefed the women on the aim of the project and how it is directed to benefit them and their communities. Nabot also emphasized the need for men in Namibia to be part of such discussions but not dominate, and to understand the challenges faced by women in conservation to collectively address them.
Women groups in Namibia such as the WfC should be the champions carrying the voices of conservation from rural areas and mainstreaming wider issues with the wider support of partner organizations through an intervention like this. The group has vowed to stay active and engaging during the year 2022 with plans to have ongoing committee meetings as well as meetings with the Kunene Region Governor for updates on their activities. They also intend to lobby for funding to kick start the poultry and garden projects, maintain the traditional village and purchase uniforms for their conservancy’s wildlife game guards.
The event was closed off with a handover of gifts to the women that attended the event and lunch. With the upcoming festivities, it was indeed a remarkable day that called for a double celebration.