Conservation is an ethic of resource use, allocation, and protection with a primary focus of maintaining the health of the natural world. We do this to protect our fauna, flora, habitats and non-renewable resources from extinction.
To conserve habitats in terrestrial eco-regions and to stop deforestation is a goal widely shared by many groups with a wide variety of motivations. But at what cost? Some believe that too much land is being used for conservation – which in effect is affecting the growth of the population, but Namibian Environment and Tourism spokesperson Romeo Muyunda told it like it really is.
Namibia is one of few countries in the world to specifically address habitat conservation and protection of natural resources in their constitution; these conservancies have contributed N$5 billion to Namibia’s net income since 1999, despite challenges they continue to face. According to Muyunda – this money was made between 1999 and 2015 with only 83 registered conservancies in Namibia.
Conservation is ingrained in Namibia, so much so that it was the first country on the continent (and one of a few in the world) to include protection of its environment within its constitution. In 1996, the Government of Namibia introduced legislation, giving communities the power to create their own conservancies. The country has also ensured local and indigenous communities receive an equitable distribution of the tourism proceeds relating to wildlife, and in doing so it has empowered them to participate to conservation efforts.
Today, over 43% of Namibia’s surface area is under conservation management. This includes national parks and reserves, communal and commercial conservancies, community forests, and private nature reserves. People are living with wildlife, including predators and large mammals, and are managing their natural resources wisely.
According to Muyunda, the conservancies generated N$102 million for the local communities, and created 5 116 jobs in 2015 alone. Profits from these conservancies are pooled together and used for the benefit of the community. The money can be used for projects such as building schools, day-care facilities or clinics.
On top of it all, Namibia now boasts the largest free-roaming population of black rhinos and cheetahs in the world and is the only country with an expanding population of free-roaming lions. Namibia’s elephant population more than doubled between 1995 and 2008 from 7 500 to over 16 000 individuals.
This remarkable turnaround has led some to call Namibia’s conservation efforts the greatest African wildlife recovery story over told.