The Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations (NACSO) recently attended a 3-day, first-of-its-kind, National Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) Conference held by the Ministry of Environment Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) aimed at reviewing the progress, challenges and imploring opportunities that can mitigate the scourge of HWC in communal and freehold land across Namibia and the Kavango Zambezi Transfontier Conservation Area (KAZA).
The conference was well attended by representatives from the Parliament, Regional Governors, Regional and Local Authorities Councilors and Leaders, Members of Diplomatic Corps, Conservancies, Ministries, NGOs, private sector, farmers, unions, tertiary education institutions, wildlife conservation stakeholders, and the media.
The Keynote speaker, His Excellency Dr. Nangolo Mbumba, stated that Human Wildlife Conflict management is complex and multi-dimensional and he emphasized the need to employ innovative strategies to reduce the prevalence of Human Wildlife Conflict to ensure that the benefits of conservation far outweigh its challenges.
The sustainable utilization of natural resources allows the 86 registered conservancies in Namibia to benefit from conservation efforts through employment creation, cash benefit to conservancy members, social projects such as electrification, rural water supply and agricultural projects as well as in kind benefits such as distribution of meat to conservancy members. However, competition between human and wildlife for the same living space, water sources and grazing land often leads to the destruction of man-made infrastructure i.e. kraals, fences and homelands, loss of livestock and horticulture, exposure to wildlife diseases, physical injury, and in extreme cases loss of human life. Human wildlife Conflict cases are further exacerbated by factors such as drought, flood, Covid-19, and a growing population that can sometimes be forced to settle in wildlife habitat and corridors.
It is reassuring that the revised National Policy on HWC Management addresses specific environmental and wildlife management issues and is midway implementation, making it the ideal time to reflect on its progress. The policy aims to reduce incidents of HWC to about 5000 or less by 2026 by developing a standardized monitoring system for HWC management and establishing best practices to prevent and mitigate HWC. The policy covers species such as elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, hippopotamus, and crocodile.
Further, the Nature Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975 which consolidates laws relating to the control of problem animals is in the process of being repealed by the Wildlife and Protected Areas Management Bill which has been under discussion for over 20 years and is expected to come into effect later this year. NACSO continues to advocate for policies that support the world renown Namibian CBNRM program and legislation at both national and international platforms to ensure the continued sustainable benefit of communities living with wildlife
Namibia is recognized as the second most successful country globally in mega-herbivore conservation after Botswana. The national elephant distribution has expanded over 3 decades while most elephant populations in Africa have significantly declined. This expansion has also contributed to the increase in HWC incidences.
Dr Nyambe Nyambe, the KAZA Executive Director, mentioned that because Namibian elephants are shared with neighbouring countries, they require a collaborative approach to reduce and mitigate the prevalence of HWC incidents, particluarly in KAZA. “Elephants have breakfast in Zambia, lunch in Namibia and dinner in Botswana,” he humored. He emphasized that KAZA countries manage the same wildlife resources, and the rich data set is beneficial to inform policies and strategies to mitigate HWC.
Elly Hamunyela a representative from MEFT explained that there are possible measure to reduce specific sub-populations of elephants. These include increased own use through trophy hunting, sale of live elephants, contraceptives, opening up wildlife corridors – local and transboundary, and commercial culling. Elephants account for the majority of HWC cases in Namibia.
Rachel Harris, the managing director of Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) presented a case study that identified the use of elephant satellite collars to track their whereabout and get notifications whenever an elephant crosses a geofence. This acts as an early warning system that can help create awareness on elephant movement and inform the community to stay away and take precautionary measures.
A representative from Iipumbu yaTshilongo Conservancy spoke on the HWC challenges faced in his conservancy especially since it is adjacent to Etosha National Park. He proposed that to assist with HWC mitigation and other benefits to the conservancy, the conservancy should be allocated more quotas in the year.
Since 2019, N$15 595 110 has been paid out to conservancies as a result of HWC. MEFT is working with The Namibia Special Risks Insurance Association (NASRIA) Ltd, a government insurer under the Ministry of Finance, to offer an insurance solution to, amongst others, human wildlife conflict risk that covers infrastructure, wildlife losses, crop losses, injury and death. Mr. John Uusiku, the Chief Operations Officer, noted that the risks are homogeneous and easy to calibrate a product that caters to all thereby protecting the economy, minimizing the impact of HWC, and enhancing the co-existence between human and wildlife.
The Minister of Environment Forestry and Tourism, Hon. Pohamba Shifeta, reiterated the ministry’s commitment to working alongside different stakeholders to tackle HWC in Namibia. He added that the conference demonstrated that HWC is a national issue which needs lasting sustainable solutions for communities living with wildlife. He assured the participants that a report with the recommendations and concerns from the conference will be sent to cabinet.