By Honorine Kaze
To help stop the dramatic upsurge in elephant poaching, Environment Investment Fund (EIF) has granted a sum of N$393 740 to a project on anti-poaching strategy.
The grant will support the implementation for the Zambezi Conservancies Anti-Poaching Strategy run in combined effort by Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), to arrest this problem in the conservancies, especially in the Zambezi Region.
IRDNC director for Zambezi and Trans-Boundary programmes, Karine Nuulimba, welcomes the EIF grant as a valuable contribution towards MET’s efforts to reduce and ultimately stop poaching in the Zambezi Region.
She notes their anti-poaching efforts are based on the principle that conservancies, in partnership with MET, can contribute to reduced poaching.
“They are on the ground and know what is going on and are thus best positioned to inform the authorities of illegal activities in their areas. A long-term solution to poaching is not just to catch poachers, but to stop poaching,” Nuulimba asserts.
About 1500 elephants are found along the corridors of the Zambezi Strips, Kaokoveld (a coastal desert of northern Namibia and Angola) and Etosha National Park. In the past two years, over 80 elephants have been poached in Zambezi Region.
To catch the poachers and stop poaching, more involvement in changing people’s attitude towards wildlife would be needed besides working with communities that could eventually benefit from MET’s progressive policies.
In that regard, IRDNC developed a vision a couple of years ago through which wildlife would belong to the people and not to Government. The aim was to ensure the people felt a sense of ownership of the wildlife. Therefore with each poaching occurrence, it meant their (the people’s) resources were being plundered. Through that attitude change, illegal hunting in Kaokoveld became socially unacceptable within two years, with the majority of the people supporting their local game guards.
The anti-poaching initiative is one of the many interventions IRDNC partakes in.
IRDNC’s mission is to provide support to rural communities in Kunene and Zambezi regions on natural resource management, institutional capacity-building and governance, as well as enterprise development. The organisation also has a programme that promotes community-based livestock and rangeland management.
As far as the law is concerned, Government has adequate laws to protect wildlife in Namibia. “Namibia is one of the few places in the world where there are laws that allow for controlled hunting of specified wildlife species (strictly controlled by quotas from MET and allocated based on sustainable off-takes) by rural communal conservancies. Therefore, this allows for the benefits from wildlife to flow back into rural areas.”
Furthermore, Nuulimba highlights, Namibia is also the only country in the world with increasing populations of wildlife outside national parks largely due to MET’s vision in putting up the conservancy legislation, which allows rural communities to benefit from wildlife.
Conservancies promote tourism and job-creation in the tourism sector and in natural resource management for the community game guards they employ.
IRDNC’s origins lie in the arid north west of Namibia dating back to early 1980s where it evolved out of a pioneering partnership between a small group of conservationists and community leaders. Their aim was to find a joint solution to the massive decline of wildlife including the black rhinos and desert-adapted elephants due to illegal commercial and subsistence hunting exacerbated by one the worst droughts in history.