Few countries are as committed to conservation and hunting as Namibia. Which is why SCI Foundation is proud to partner with Namibia on an exciting new anti-poaching project to help secure its rhinos, elephants, lions and other high-value species. Sub-Saharan Africa remains at the forefront of the current global poaching epidemic, and Namibia unfortunately has seen an increase in poaching in recent years. Community Game Guards are the first line of defense against poaching, and this project will increase their capacity to stop poachers in their tracks.
Namibia is one of the greatest wildlife conservation stories in the world; over half the nation’s land is now under conservation management. With early support from the US Government, in the form of grants from USAID, Namibia developed a system of communal conservancies that has been growing since 1998. Together with the Namibian Association of Conservancy Support Organizations (NACSO), SCI Foundation is proud to continue helping to build the capacity of local game guards.
Namibia is one of the world’s youngest countries, having only gained independence in 1990 after a long and bloody struggle. For most of the 20th century it was ruled by South Africa as a protectorate after Germany lost its colonial territories in World War One. South Africa imposed apartheid, the system of forced racial segregation. Under German colonial rule and later South African rule, all wildlife was considered state property and only whites were allowed hunt. Black Namibians hunters were considered poachers, and rural Namibians viewed wildlife as a nuisance since there was no incentive for responsible wildlife management. When Namibia gained its independence, the newly democratic nation enshrined the right to own and benefit from wildlife in its constitution. With the right to directly benefit from the wildlife on their land, Namibians began to see the value of wildlife, and the communal conservancy movement was born.
Game guards at Salamba Conservancy in Zambezi Region participate in the annual event book audit. – ©NACSO/WWF in Namibia 2015 Brochure King Nehale Conservancy Cover – ©NACSO/WWF in Namibia 2012
Currently there are 83 registered communal conservancies engaging 189,000 rural Namibians directly in responsible wildlife management. In a country of only 2 million, the percentage of the population involved in conservation is enormous. The new project we are undertaking has identified three high-priority conservancies in the Kunene Region of northwestern Namibia for support: ≠Khoadi-//Hôas, Ehi-Rovipuka, and Omatendeka, which together involve 8,139 members. The game scouts of these conservancies monitor high-value species targeted by poachers such as elephants, rhinos, and lions. Currently, game guards are not trained or prepared to deal with sophisticated organized poaching syndicates from Asia and elsewhere targeting ivory and rhino horn. Traditional knowledge and skills will be paired with modern technology and training to enable effective and innovative resource protection.
Hunting plays an important role in empowering rural communities to exercise stewardship over their natural resources by providing incentives to conserve wildlife. Encouraging rural communities to rely less on herding and practices that do not encourage responsible wildlife management, conservancies encourage democratic control over natural resources and the equitable distribution of benefits derived from them. Income from hunting and wildlife sales goes directly to local communities. This serves to not only empower those in the conservancy area, it provides opportunities for motivated young people to stay in the conservancy rather than seek careers in urban areas.
With nearly 10% of the Namibian public belonging to one of its 82 communal conservancies, community based conservation, and the sustainable use of wildlife is firmly entrenched in Namibia. This system has been responsible for the recovery of various species that were previously confined to Etosha National Park. Today lions, elephants, and rhinos have made remarkable recoveries, and are being utilized responsibly by hunters and conservancies. SCI Foundation is eager to continue this work and support a revolutionary movement that grew out of the recognition that wildlife and other natural resource loss can be reversed if local communities are empowered to responsibly manage these resources themselves.