Like other African ecotourism and hunting destinations, Namibia has been devastated by the sudden and totally unforeseen collapse of both these important industries resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as the virus begins to subside, the country’s resilient and innovative people will no doubt be more than ready to pick up the momentum of wildlife conservation and management they have so successfully implemented in the 30 years since Namibia’s independence in 1990. Some recent developments are highlighted here to set the scene for the return of visitors to this most interesting destination.
The President of Namibia, Mr Hage Geingob, recently announced that stage five of the country’s lockdown exit strategy is expected to be rolled out on September 18. This involves the opening of the country’s borders and the resumption of air travel. The President was delivering the State of the Nation Address at the end of July.
To prepare for this important milestone, Namibia opened its borders on 3 August to tourists from a selected list of international markets. This will run for a trial period to 17 September, and will help determine whether travellers from certain low-risk source markets can be considered for travel to Namibia once the borders officially open.
“The modalities have been carefully negotiated and agreed upon, so as to achieve the dual objective of stimulating our tourism sector and safeguarding public health. Continuous assessments will be conducted throughout this trial, which will inform and strengthen preparations for the imminent reopening of points of entry under stage five,” said Geingob.
The Namibian Chamber of Environment (NCE) is an umbrella association that provides a forum and mouthpiece for the broader environment sector. Founded in 2016, the NCE published its first triennial report in 2019. In it, CEO Dr Chris Brown highlighted the progress made. You can read more about this inspiring initiative at www.n-c-e.org
NCE focuses on eight strategic programme areas aimed at supporting its members, thereby strengthening the environmental sector in Namibia as a whole. Members comprise over 90% of the non-governmental organisations working on environmental matters in Namibia. The Namibian Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA) is a full member of the NCE. Its website is at http://www.napha-namibia.com.
A key mandate of the NCE is to provide appropriate support for members’ conservation endeavours. Practical support includes the provision of office and boardroom space, a Cessna 182 aircraft, and assistance with research applications. Conceptual support has been through providing communications platforms for members involved in research and conservation by organising three national symposia and one international conference. Informative support includes expanding the Environmental Information Service online database, and establishing the peer-reviewed, open-access Namibian Journal of the Environment.
With a view to the future, NCE has provided support for young Namibians who want to become involved in the environmental sector. The Bursaries and Internship programmes have proven especially popular and competitive, and 35 students and 13 interns were selected during 2018-2019 from a pool of 153 candidates. Namibia is a leader in the field of community-based conservation, and you can learn more about their ground-breaking work at https://conservationtourism.com.na.
NCE is also mandated to represent the environmental sector to other sectors and stakeholders in Namibia. This includes engaging pro-actively with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and other Ministries that affect the environment. Its advocacy function has extended to the general public – both national and international – through the NCE website, social media platforms, and a popular conservation magazine.
The latest magazine, Conservation and the Environment in Namibia 2020, is published in partnership with Venture Media and showcases work done by NCE and its members through 17 informative and beautifully illustrated articles. These cover a wide range of interesting topics from conservancies, combating wildlife crime, sustainable conservation, hunting, tourism and wildlife credits, to carnivores, giraffe conservation, endemic plants of the ‘Sperrgebiet’, environmental education and how to foster a quest for knowledge (by asking the challenging questions!). It starts on a sad but inspirational note, with a tribute to Garth Owen-Smith and his community-based conservation legacy.
You can access this magazine and read these enlightening articles at www.conservationnamibia.com, a beautifully presented website with stunning pictures. It should certainly whet your appetite to visit this fascinating country before too long. It is one of the most appealing destinations on the continent, and with motivated and inspiring people such as those associated with the Namibian Chamber of Environment, it will surely bounce back from the setbacks of Covid-19 and continue to be a leading role-model for a wildlife-based economy in Africa.
Dr John Ledger is a past Director of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, now a consultant, writer and teacher on the environment, energy and wildlife; he is a columnist for the African Hunting Gazette. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.