In the Kunene region, Northwest of Namibia is a very distinctive desert ecoregion which is home to the black rhino, desert adapted-elephants, predators such as lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena, and vast game species.
From 20 January 2023 to 4 February 2023, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources together with NACSO partners and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) visited conservancies in the Kunene region. The aim of the visit was for the committee to understand the daily realities of people living with wildlife and come up with suitable solutions to meet some of their challenges and work towards opportunities pertaining to community based natural resource management.
The team met with the Director of Wildlife and Parks in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), Bennett Kahuure, who gave an overview of the state of conservation in the Kunene Region. He revealed that the comprehensive Wildlife and Protected Areas Management Bill, which is intended to replace the dated Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975 is projected to be voted into law early this year. This is good for the management of natural resources as it looks into addressing a variety of issues.
Maxi Pia Louis, the Director of NACSO, informed the committee of the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on conservation although conservancies together with various stakeholders still managed to find ways to continue conserving natural resources during this period. She also mentioned that Namibia's designation as an upper middle-income nation added to the financial constraints in the conservation sector. The latter has made it difficult for civil society organizations to secure long-term funding.
In Kunene, which has been affected by long periods of drought, there has been an increase in cases of Human-Wildlife Conflict in Kunene, exacerbated by the loss of crops, livestock, and infrastructure by wildlife, particularly elephants and lions. The parliamentarians visited //Huab conservancy, where the members expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of consultation on the part of the government when granting Exploration Mining Licenses (EPLs) in the region. This has caused wildlife, particularly rhinos, to move to other areas due to high levels of noise and is affecting tourism in their area.
Torra conservancy in the Bersig area, mentioned that the compensation policy for human-wildlife conflict loss needs urgent review, as the compensation is below market value. In ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy, one of the success stories in community-based conservation with over 2000 registered members, has come up with an initiative that supplements the compensation from the MEFT.
Hendrik Goabaeb, the constituency councilor for Sesfontein, mentioned that monitoring mining areas, which he claims have established themselves as hotspots for poachers, particularly those who target rhinos, should also receive special attention. He noted that communities should refrain from moving to regions that are mostly populated by animals to minimise human-wildlife conflict, which is a significant concern that calls for coordinated efforts from all parties.
A report of the findings of the Standing Committee’s visit will be compiled and submitted to the main Committee for adoption and subsequent tabling in the National Assembly.