Wildlife can contribute more to economic growth
By Freeman Ngulu.
05 December 2016 – Recent natural wildlife capital accounts indicate that the wildlife trade and activities based on wildlife, contributed almost 4% to GDP with a reasonable chance of massive expansion.
Speaking in Cancun, Mexico at the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Environment and Tourism Minister, Pohamba Shifeta said this week that proceeds from the legal trade in wildlife and wildlife products in Namibia, including rhino horn and ivory, are re-invested into conservation measures through dedicated environmental funds including the Game Products Trust Fund and the Environmental Investment Fund.
This income has funded a programme to relocated over 10,000 head of wildlife from state protected areas to communal conservancies and offset costs to rural communities for losses resulting from conflict between humans and wildlife.
Shifeta raised concerns in Mexico that the increasing anti-trophy hunting pressure and general international trend away from trophy hunting poses risks to hunting as an integral part of Namibia’s conservation strategy and the broader economy. “It is a lifeline for our communities as well as a sector with huge potential for future expansion,” Shifeta said.
Annual game counts and surveys are carried out in all regions to inform a strict system of quotas and permits to ensure that all harvesting and use of wildlife is done on a sustainable basis.
In line with the recently endorsed Cancun Declaration, wildlife natural resources are at the centre of a national attempt to implement the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Locally, the generation of fair and equitable sharing of benefits in the wildlife sector motivates the sustainable use of biodiversity that lead to communal and commercial conservation efforts. “It has also incentivized the full involvement and participation of our communities in conservation,” Shifeta said.
While local conservation policies are hailed as being among the best in the world, the wildlife sector shows how biodiversity can be main-streamed with productive sectors of the economy – in this case tourism – for improved human and ecological well-being.
Shifeta said, his ministry is currently halfway through the implementation of a second National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan while making contributions to achieve the CBD Global Strategic Plan and its Aichi Targets.
“We continue to review and update them to fit the changing circumstances and needs of our conservation efforts”, he said adding that Namibia has been able to establish an interlinked network of protected areas comprising national parks, community managed conservation areas, freehold wildlife management units, and tourism concession areas for the conservation of biodiversity, which now covers over 45% of the country.
“This network is the key attraction of the country’s fast growing tourism sector and it has opened up ecological corridors to promote the free movement of wildlife through different land use systems,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shifeta said that over the past 20 years, the development of a strong rights-based legal framework to devolve user rights to communities over wildlife and other natural resources has been of particular interest. This has established a community-based natural resource management network of communal conservancies and community forests, now making up almost half of the total protected areas.
“Within this system of community conservation, tourism based on the sustainable use of wildlife, particularly trophy hunting, is the leading income source for communal conservancies. Trophy hunting, or conservation hunting as we prefer to call it, is a key pillar of our broader approach to the conservation and sustainable utilization of natural resources,” he commented.
“Without hunting, wildlife will not remain a viable form of land use in rural Namibia, and may be replaced by other forms of land use more damaging to our ecosystems. A recent study estimated that the number of financially profitable conservancies would be drastically reduced if conservancy income from hunting is eliminated. This could trigger the decline of our community-based approach to conservation and lead to increased levels of poverty and an increase in illegal wildlife trade and cases of poaching,” he said.
Furthermore, Shifeta said conservation efforts have seen dramatic increases in wildlife numbers on communal land, including species such as elephants, black rhinos and lions, which have re-established strong and viable populations in areas where they had been hunted to the verge of extinction.