By Omagano Shooya, NACSO communications intern
WWF Namibia recently hosted a study tour to the Kunene Region for eight experts in the various fields of conservation from Mongolia, Kenya and South Africa.
The aim of the study tour was to assist the participants to understand the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme by taking them directly to the people that make this programme a success – the conservancy members. In turn, the presence of high level experts from three countries provided a unique opportunity for Namibia CBNRM practitioners to learn from.
The study tour followed three main themes; business and enterprise, natural resource management, and institutional development and governance. The themes, which form the pillars of the CBNRM programme, were introduced and explained to the participants by the conservancy committee of the Tsiseb, Torra and ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancies.
The business and enterprise theme focused mainly on joint ventures and financial management by the conservancies. Natural resource management on the other hand was aimed at describing to the participants how the conservancies manage their natural resources in order to receive maximum benefits as well as how they maintain a ‘relationship’ with wildlife and the challenges they face regarding human-wildlife conflict. The institutional development and governance theme was focused on how the conservancy commit- tee is structured and how this structure assists in keeping the conservancy intact.
During the four days, the participants engaged in fruitful discussions about the achievements as well as the challenges that face the CBNRM programme – while continu- ally drawing upon parallels from their countries. They also discussed ways in which they might apply aspects of the Namibian programme to fit the landscapes and needs of their countries by adopting and employing the CBNRM principles that have worked in Namibia.
It was not all work and no play during the study tour – the participants had some time in the sun as they had the rare opportunity of tracking Black Rhino in the Torra Conservancy and observing a lion pride at a waterhole near Werêldsend, a first for the Mongolians!
A game drive in the Torra Conservancy left everyone in awe at the breathtaking beautiful landscapes. The Kenyan’s, especially, could not quite comprehend how remarkably similar Namibia (the land and people) was to their country leaving one of them trying to puzzle together the pieces of African history.
The study tour drew to a wistful and exciting close with discussions on the way forward at the WWF office in Windhoek.
The visit gave the participants a sense of appreciation for the local people as these community members are the people that make the Namibian CBNRM programme such a success, regardless of the day-to-day challenges they may face. “They have a genuine love for the environ- ment (wildlife, culture, resources) and there is a positive perception in rural communities.”
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