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Conservancies complain of lack of donors.

Conservancy officials representing five regions are concerned that many conservancies are not receiving enough funding to enable them to carry out their activities.

The representatives from the South, North Central, Central, North West and North East regions said the challenges experienced by conservancies greatly outweigh their achievements and the major challenge they all faced was a lack of funding.

The representatives presented their findings during a Communal Conservancies Chairperson Forum held earlier this week. The forum was aimed at providing opportunities for conservancies, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, line ministries and partners to reflect and deliberate on issues pertaining to the management of communal conservancies.

Representatives argued that although the conservancies benefit through the Community Based Tourism programme, they are still faced with challenges which include poor tourism information centers, poor marketing strategies, veld fires and bush encroachment amongst others.

According to conservation official from Ovitoto in the Central region, Marama Kavita, one major challenge experienced by the conservancies in that region is the lack of a community forest policy. "There is currently no community forest gazette so this is a big issue for our conservancies. Also, our communities are not sensitized about wildlife and because many of them are farmers, they are not willing to share grazing area with the wildlife," said Kavita.

He said the Ministry of Environment and Tourism should do away with the target sites as all conservancies must be sponsored equally. He added that their challenges are not properly addressed by the ministry as no feedback is ever given. Kavita also proposed the ministry should provide transport for game guards. "We want government to provide us with transport, if the government can afford to buy new Mercedes for government officials, why can't they provide us with bakkies?" Kavita inquired.

Kavita also proposed that game guards be paid for their services as they are currently not remunerated. "The game guards are also not offered any training so evidently there is a lack of capacity building in our conservancies," said Kavita.

Echoing Kavita's sentiments is Dave Kangombe, representing the North West regions. He said although the conservancies require funding, the ministry should do away with politically inspired donors. "All conservancies should be equally sponsored, the cake must be distributed equally," said Kangombe. He added that because of poor marketing strategies, many conservancies are not profitable.

There are 12 conservancies in the North West region which Kangombe said are all understaffed. He also mentioned the lack of response from the ministry on issues regarding the Human Wildlife Conflict policy, proposing that the current policy needs to be renewed. "The current policy only covers for death, not injuries sustained, so we need coverage when for instance we are attacked by a snake," he pointed out. Kangombe also proposed standardized trophy prizes for all trophy hunting activities.

Conservancies that have greatly benefited from Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Namibia are those in the North Eastern region, specifically the Caprivi region. At least ten conservancies out of a total of 15 have received funding from the MCA grant. According to Francis Lisao who represented the North Eastern conservancies, there has been a great improvement in the financial management of the conservancies, adding that seven conservancies have revised and amended their constitutions.

Lisao however pointed out that the conservancies were experiencing challenges such as the political involvement in conservancy issues. "We are experiencing illegal settlers and illegal smuggling of Devils Claw in Bwabwata. We also are experiencing illegal harvest of forest products and the poaching of meat and ivory, which urgently needs to be addressed," Lisao said.

Director for Parks and Wildlife Management, Colgar Sikopo said that all the issues raised by the different conservancies will receive attention by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and feedback will be given at the next forum.




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Author:Hashange, Hilma
Publication:Namibia Economist (Windhoek, Namibia)
Date:May 3, 2013
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