OTJIWARONGO - Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has called for an immediate end to mismanagement and misappropriation of funds generated through some of Namibia’s conservancy offices.
Speaking at the opening of the 2019 Communal Conservancy Chairperson Forum in Otjiwarongo on Wednesday, Shifeta devoted the bulk of his opening remarks to condemning acts of embezzlement, stipulating that at least 50 percent or more of conservancy office income must be invested in local community projects.
The minister warned that violators would be prosecuted under both customary and common law.
“We need to focus on community benefits more than on benefiting individuals. We are becoming so selfish because of our undertakings especially when it comes to communally owned resources,” he said.
Shifeta urged conservationists not to abuse their power and to always have the benefits to their communities at heart.
“You as managers have the law in your hand. There are policies to direct you how to act. We should be a caring society.”
The annual forum provides a platform for conservationists aimed at strengthening the management of Namibian conservancies and reviewing and strategizing the challenges they face. This year’s discussions focused on issues of good conservancy leadership, financial management conservancies, ensuring income-generating benefits reach communities, and issues relating to reducing human-wildlife conflict.
Since the gazetting of the first conservancy programme in 1998, 86 conservancies have been registered in Namibia, each created with the goal of economic empowerment of rural communities through income-generating activities such as tourism and conservation hunting. Income generated from conservancies has supported developmental projects such as rural electrification, building of classrooms, borehole drilling, and medical care.
According to the minister, tangible developmental results from conservancy programmes also create more incentives for people to use natural resources in a sustainable way.
Conservancy chairpersons and managers who implemented successful projects in their communities were recognized for their efforts at the forum. Hunting operators and game guides were also praised for their involvement in sustaining Namibia’s conservation efforts.
Threats to the communal conservancy programme include wildlife crime and lion and other human-wildlife conflicts, the latter of which could rise as competition between wild animals, humans and livestock for resources such as water and grazing increase.
Maxi Louis, director of the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations (NACSO), applauded Namibia’s communal conservationism, stating that other countries often look to Namibia for guidance on implementing their own strategies.
Louis also noted increased women’s representation in Namibia’s conservancy management and expressed her desire for continued gender balance. She said the growth of communal conservations reveal Namibians’ appetite for conservation.
Kaylan Shipanga is an information officer at Otjozondjupa regional office of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
2019-07-19 09:25:12 | 4 months ago