The Namibian Sun

Jana-Mari Smith,
January 11, 2018

Namibia’s strategy of bringing local people living with wildlife on board
to protect the environment and the animals, has been essential to a
conservation success strategy that is recognised globally.

John Kasaona underlined Namibia’s conservation approaches as a speaker at
the launch of the 2018 Pathways Africa Conference in Windhoek on Tuesday,
where nearly 200 participants from across the globe have gathered to
explore the theme ‘Living with Wildlife’.

Kasaona, a pioneer of community-based conservation and co-director at the
Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), said
involving the communities living with wildlife is about building a culture
of ?trust and respect. Attitude is very important in all of this?.

Kasaona noted that this conservation model is also about a measure of
restoring justice, as many areas now closed off exclusively for wildlife
once were the homes of communities before they were forcibly relocated.

He added that without community involvement, authorities would struggle
with increased poaching and a lack of wildlife across the country, which in
turn would be disastrous for tourism, jobs and development.

Empowering communities through entrusting them with important conservation
goals and implementing sustainability principles, has benefitted the
country in multiple ways, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta said on
Tuesday.

He explained that the sustainable utilisation of wildlife and natural
resources ?is fundamentally and inextricably connected to successful
wildlife conservation in our country. We cannot achieve the targets of our
sustainable development goals without it.?

Wildlife recovery has been notable over the past two decades, including
elephant population growth from 7 500 individuals in 1995 to more than 23
000 today, many of which live outside of formally protected areas.

Shifeta underlined that Namibia has ?long recognised that people play key
roles in conservation and natural resource management. Wildlife managers,
fishermen and foresters must practice sustainability to secure their
livelihoods.?

But, to ?coexist and share the same habitats with wild animals is not an
easy lifestyle. Our communities bear the brunt of conflict with wild
animals daily and that is why Pathways Africa is so important.?

Shifeta said the Pathways Africa conference will play a role in future
research, innovation and collaboration on these topics.

In Namibia, at least 44% of the country is under various forms of
conservation management, which includes the largest contiguous protected
landscape in Africa, the Namibian coastline that stretches a distance of 1
570 km from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene River in the north.

?However, 80% of Namibia’s wildlife is found outside of
government-protected areas and are in the people’s hands. The good
stewardship of Namibia’s natural recourses is a source of national pride
and it supports the Namibian economy,? Shifeta said. Nevertheless, while
tourism has become the second largest industry and employs more than 100
000 people, challenges such as poaching, remain.

?Our conservancies are our most important allies in the fight against
poaching. In our experience, the local communities based in the
conservancies are the champions of conservation, once they experience
benefitting fairly and equitably from conservation,? the minister noted.
Kasaona added that the ?big threat of poaching by selfish individuals who
rob us of our assets and heritage? can only be combatted by Namibians
banding together.

He said already there ?is evidence we are breaking ground to bring poaching
down?.

The goal of the Pathways Africa 2018 conference is to provide a forum for
scientists and practitioners to address topics critical to understanding
the science of human dimensions and its application in wildlife
conservation.

https://www.namibiansun.com/news/zooming-in-on-wildlife-conflict2018-01-11/

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This news service is provided by Save the Elephants.