The COVID-19 pandemic has at the very least slowed down various activities and essential services around the world and at the most crippled the economies. First world leaders responded to the pandemic by imposing shutdowns and travel bans and the rest of the world responded similarly.
With many communities shutting down travel and holiday related activities, the tourism sector and its related companies, communities and the people who depend on related income streams for their livelihoods, were heavily affected. With Namibia’s tourism sector being a major contributory to the GDP of the country and having been the fastest growing economic sector over the last few years, the country was not spared. Soon after the country reported its first case in March 2020, the government declared a state of emergency, followed by a national lockdown in the same month that lasted for 6 months until 28th September 2020 bringing tourism to a standstill.
For over two decades, communities, government, conservation and development organizations have worked within Namibia to develop a unique and successful model that has contributed immensely in conserving unique landscapes from conversion to other competing land uses and preserving the species and bio-diversity of the country in a sustainable manner that integrates the rights of the indigenous people and contributes to rural development through its renowned Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme. Naturally to date the programme has been intricately interlinked with the tourism sector, with communal conservancies paying for costs of conservation (including but not limited to anti-poaching activities, resource monitoring, human wildlife conflict mitigation measures etc.) and embarking on developmental projects with income earned from tourism linked activities. Namibia has 61 joint-venture tourism agreements in rural areas with enterprises directly employing more than 1,174 full time and 50 part time staff. In these remote areas, employment income feeds anywhere between 5 to 7 family members. Without consideration of the employment created by other small and medium enterprises in the tourism value chain, the conservancies themselves (e.g. game guards), it is clear that income from joint-venture tourism activities in communal conservancies has helped to transform lives of rural Namibians.
Much of the programme’s successes is also reliant on the wise management and dedicated work community game guards within the conservancies, who play a major role in ensuring the conservation of natural capital. Generally, the pandemic threatens the legacy of the long-term investments and successes of Namibia’s CBNRM programme. The dramatic declines in direct and indirect conservation income-generating activities has led to a widened gap in funding for core natural resource management activities.
In efforts to aid conservancies during these trying times, the CCFN established a COVID-19 Emergency Fund with the overall goal of providing financial relief to Communal Conservancies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and to aid recovery and resilience of these conservancies from the effects of the pandemic. The following key objectives were identified.
• To secure the ongoing deployment of game guards, resource monitors and other locally employed conservancy and tourism staff to ensure continued safeguarding of the wildlife.
• To secure the continuation of anti-poaching activities, human wildlife conflict monitoring activities, and the offset of human wildlife payments during the project period.
• To ensure the continued carrying out of basic governance and operations of Communal Conservancies during the period.
• To facilitate support to Conservancy’s business, including joint venture partners specifically with the continued employment of conservancy members and business continuation in preparation for the post COVID 19 period.
• To facilitate support to Field based organizations to continue to assist the beneficiary conservancies as may be approved by the Grantor.
Simultaneously, the government of Namibia through the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) established a Conservancy Relief, Recovery and Resilience Facility (CRRRF) whose aim was to bring together all stakeholders in the CBNRM space and integrate and co-ordinate the Sectors’ responses in addressing the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the Namibia’s communal conservancies and their conservation efforts.
So far, the CRRRF has attracted support from stakeholders such as the Community Conservation of Fund Namibia (CCFN), Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), NedBank Namibia, Namibia Nature Foundation, B2Gold, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), Namibia Chamber of Environment, TNC, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, KfW Development Bank, and Tourism Supporting Conservation Trust (TOSCO), who have individually committed funds for relief to communal conservancies affected by the COVID 19 pandemic and set up a unified, well-coordinated platform for a joint response to the COVID challenges the conservancies have faced.
Effective May 2020, grants have been issued and shall continue to be issued periodically to beneficiaries in line with the Project’s outlines. Currently all stakeholders continue to monitor the situation on the ground. Nevertheless, it is envisaged that the Emergency Project in aid of the above stated objectives shall continue until December 2021. With great thanks to the WWF network, KFW Development Bank and the MEFT and other donors, CCFN will facilitate the activities and disburse an estimated total of €5.5 million to COVID-19 targeted activities and mitigation measures in Namibia’s Communal Conservancies during this period.
While the pandemic has brought about many challenges, the response has been commendable and important lessons on the value and effectiveness of integration and co-ordination have been imparted.
Conservancy committee members share some of their sentiments towards the relief packages: “At least now I know that people out there recognize my job and what I do is importnant” said Marius Kock, Game Guard from Oskop conservancy who feels happy and honored for his conservancy to have received such a grant during these challenging times. His friend Johannes Schidt, Secretary from Huibes conservancy, shared the same sentiments.
Lameck Limbo, Enterprise officer from Wuparo conservancy, urged members to take responsibility with regards to finances. “This conservation issue is ours; the money is ours; the resources are ours, therefore let us be accountable,” he said. Read more from the conservancies at Voices in Conservation.
Should you wish to contribute to Namibia’s efforts in mitigating the impacts of COVID 19 in Communal Conservancies, feel free to access the following link: https://www.ccf-namibia.org/donate