WINDHOEK - The just-ended second national land conference resoundingly passed a resolution speaking volumes on residential land within national parks, which rejects ideas from critics to have national parks reduced for resettlement purposes.
Prior and during the land conference discussions, there were calls to reduce the size of the Etosha National Park to accommodate or resettle landless Namibians.
This was however rejected when the consensus land resolutions were passed. “Measures to reduce the area of protected areas will undermine the viability and value of the national parks and should be discouraged or not considered,” resolution 20 on issues of residential land within national parks reads.
There were equally calls for the allocation of land in national parks to marginalised communities, such as the San, to co-exist with wildlife and other natural resources as their customs and traditions dictate.
In this regard, the conference resolved that farms close to national parks should be acquired for resettlement for the communities living around national parks.
The conference further resolved that communities on the farms should be assisted with the development of their areas towards improved livelihoods.
Moreover, the conference adopted that such communities should have tourism concessions in the national parks. Equally, the same resolution states that the zonation plan of national parks should be maintained and provide for multiple use areas where communities are residing.
Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, vowed before the second land conference commencement that no portions of national parks land would be turned into communal land. Speaking at the inauguration of the ministry’s dog unit for wildlife protection and law enforcement at Waterberg in the Otjozondjupa Region last month, Shifeta said national parks are protected state land and cannot be de-gazetted to become communal land.
The protected areas of Namibia include its national parks and reserves. With the 2010 declaration of Dorob National Park, Namibia became the first and only country to have its entire coastline protected through a national parks network.
Protected areas are subdivided into game reserves and or nature reserves, such as special protected areas, wilderness areas, natural areas, and development areas. There are also recreation reserves.
Facilities in the national parks are operated by Namibia Wildlife Resorts.
Over 19 percent of Namibia is protected, an area of some 130,000 square kilometres. However, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism auctions limited hunting rights within its protected areas.
Director of Parks and Wildlife Management in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Colgar Sikopo says protected areas are important engines for economic growth in rural areas and are the cornerstone of the tourism industry. There should be no measures to reduce the size of protected areas.
He said the total employment created through concessions in 2016 was estimated at 918 permanent jobs and 110 temporary jobs.
Concessions have been undertaken in a variety of national parks such as Etosha, Bwabwata, Namib Naukluft, Dorob, Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet), Khaudum, Nkasa Rupara, Skeleton Coast and Mudumu.
Despite, the abovementioned success, Sikopo highlighted that existing protected areas should be further strengthened and developed in terms of infrastructure and marketed to attract increasing visitor numbers. “The revenue generated by protected areas should be re-invested in their management and to prevent poaching and manage human wildlife conflict,” Sikopo noted.
Sikopo said more concessions and support to community-based tourism ventures are required to ensure that benefits from protected areas effectively contribute to the upliftment of communities living adjacent to protected areas.
Equally, he added, there is a need to facilitate the involvement of formerly disadvantaged Namibian landowners in the wildlife production and trophy hunting sectors.