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Know your civil servant - Maria Anna Nangolo Iilonga - Conservationist with a plan

2021-10-08  Staff Reporter

Know your civil servant - Maria Anna Nangolo Iilonga - Conservationist with a plan
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Maria Anna Nangolo Iilonga is a Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) warden in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism responsible for conservancies in the Otjozondjupa region. 

She is committed to ensuring that communities in the conservancy areas are capacitated to adopt the culture of managing natural resources.

CBNRM is a system of resources governance that was developed as a way to protect natural resources such as wildlife and their habitat, while empowering local populations.

The programme intends to do so by devolving control from central government to local communities to be responsible for both the costs associated with managing resources, and to accrue financial benefits.

Iilonga, who is a natural conservationist by profession, said: “The CBNRM concept is simple - local people benefit from the use of wildlife and tourism resources in their area by forming a community-based organisation which manages those resources.”

The programme ensures that the community or groups who live within the conservancy area are the ones who manage the resources and make the decisions over the resources, and benefit from such.

Iilonga is of the view that for Namibia to fully realise the sustainable use of natural resources, local communities should be responsible for their management and benefit from using the natural resources.

Hence, she regards the CBNRM “as an important instrument to promote sound environmental management and the sustainable use of natural resources, in a manner that empowers local communities to share the responsibilities and benefits from such management.”

Iilonga was born in exile during the struggle for liberation. She grew up in Windhoek, having been raised by her parents.

Being a conservationist is not by chance, because her love for nature started way back when she was a young girl.

Unlike other children who enjoyed watching cartoons, her favourite channels were those on nature and wildlife.

Her role at the ministry includes implementing national policies for CBNRM for conservancies, also to ensure that standard operational procedures are adhered to by the conservancies of her assigned region.

 She is tasked to make sure that the programme is successfully implemented in the regions.

At the end of every project, it is her responsibility to conduct CBNRM monitoring and evaluation to ensure that communities living with the resources should benefit more than outsiders.

Iilonga described herself as a determined and driven individual, who strives to achieve her goals timeously.

Besides, she enjoys being the leader of the team, learning fast and adapting easily to a new environment as well as changes. “I can work well and execute tasks under pressure and on tight schedules”, she noted.

The Otjiwarongo-based warden said some of the conservancies in the Okakarara area which are benefiting and improving livelihoods within the Waterberg Plateau Park concession are part of the ministry’s success stories.

Having worked for the government for almost 18 years, Iilonga says her expertise has helped the ministry realise the goals of the CBNRM programme. 

She was able to assist the ministry to develop systems for financial management that help in countering fraudulent activities in conservancies.

When asked to give her view on the general misconception that people who are working in public institutions are unproductive and inefficient, Iilonga labelled such sentiment as a “myth” that people generally use to tarnish civil servants’ image. 

She stated that those civil servants are guided by ministerial strategic and annual plans, and evidence of deliverables has been reported.

“The public service has policies with clear targets and deliverables which are expected to be implemented for the benefit of Namibian citizens,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, she is encouraging the youth to pursue a career in government as besides job security, “the government offers an opportunity to its employees to advance the careers that are in the best interest of the government”.

As part of the capacity-building and skills development programme, civil servants have been encouraged to acquire new skills by attending training programmes (either qualifying or non-qualifying) that drive to qualifications’ attainments.

“Investment in staff is a priority of the government. There are plenty of opportunities supported by the government for people like me who want to learn and develop,” she continued.

2021-10-08  Staff Reporter

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