Namibia is an increasingly regular presence on most lists of the best world travel destinations, but there remains considerable room for improvement with regards to the number of jobs that are created by the country’s growing tourism sector, with the country’s unemployment rate still at 51%.
Increased numbers of tourism-based jobs for locals particularly in wildlife-rich areas could also help counter the worrying rise in poaching in Namibia over the last 12 months by encouraging locals that could otherwise be tempted into poaching to see wildlife rather as an (in)valuable asset to them and their community.
Speaking last month at a media event in Kunene, WWF senior conservation planner Dr Greg Stuart-Hill said that further innovative approaches are required to effectively manage wildlife outside state protected areas where local communities live, adding that Namibia is particularly well-endowed with regards to wildlife and that this wildlife is “central to generating returns for conservancies”.
He said over the last 50 years community-based wildlife management has been an effective mechanism for the Namibian Government to combine conservation with developing governance structures to enhance the wildlife resources needed to attract tourism to rural communal areas.
He went on:
“By turning wildlife use into a viable livelihood activity, and complimenting it with other natural resource uses, more community conservation can make a real difference in the life of rural people facilitated through effective overall management structures and improved access markets. As private sector engagement in community conservation broadens more opportunities continue to open up.”
By forming conservancies, local communities are able to add sustainable use of wildlife and ecotourism development, and indigenous natural product production and processing to their existing land uses and livelihood activities. Stuart-Hill said the largest portion of conservancy returns comes from tourism and sustainable wildlife use.
Namibia was the first country to enshrine wildlife conservation in its constitution and government initiatives have helped ensure that rural communities are diligently informed about the benefits of conservation for their communities. But with an increasing poaching threat, more needs to be done to reinvigorate community-based conservation and job creation.