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Communities were seen as conservation’s problem, not its solution – Garth Owen-Smith

Communities were seen as conservation’s problem, not its solution – Garth Owen-Smith

It is more than thirty years since the late Garth Owen-Smith realised local communities are the solution to conservation, not the problem they were at that time deemed to be. From this basic philosophical shift flowed the community-based natural resource management concept, which is at the root of Namibia’s spectacular successes in large-scale conservation.

Honouring the pioneering work of Garth is certainly not easy given how far the concept has evolved and how sophisticated the narrative has become, but there is one indisputable pillar that even today, is still the pivot that support the entire conservation effort. It is the community game guard.

To give recognition to the selfless people who work at grassroots level to protect nature and wildlife, a group of conservationists have come together to launch the GOSCARS, or more precisely, the Grassroots Owen-Smith Community Ranger awards.

The intention is that these awards give recognition to those who are at the forefront of conservation and who often spend years protecting wildlife without proper recognition.

These awards have been made possible by the generosity of hundreds of people in Namibia and internationally, who contributed to the Garth Owen-Smith Memorial Fund. The GOSCARs and the fund are lodged with the Namibian Chamber of Environment, who are doing the administration at no cost and will assist the judging panel with raising funds for the annual ceremony and other costs.

The awards start with a third-party nomination. From the information provided on the nomination form, candidates are short-listed. A small GOSCARs committee chaired by Dr Margaret Jacobsohn will select finalists from the nominations. Beaven Munali, former Assistant Director of IRDNC and former chair of the Zambezi Regional Council, is also a judge, with two others still to be appointed.

The deadline for nominations is set for Wednesday 01 December 2021 with the first awards ceremony slated for next year April.

Specific criteria to be listed on the nomination form include effective monitoring of wildlife and other valuable natural resources, excellent communication with community members and conservancy committees, human–wildlife conflict mitigation and conservation outreach within communities.

Nomination forms can be downloaded from the website of Namibian Chamber of Environment with printed copies available through NACSO partner offices including IRDNC offices in Opuwo, Wêreldsend, Katima Mulilo and Windhoek.

The completed nomination form, including a brief motivation, should be sent or hand-delivered to the offices of Namibian Chamber of Environment.


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The Economist accommodates two interns every year, one per semester. They are given less demanding, softer issues to hone their skills, often with a specific leaning to social issues. Today, many of our interns are respected journalists or career professionals at economic and financial institutions. - Ed.