Great Strides for Met

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) says Namibia has increased its national conservation efforts significantly and nearly 42 percent of the country’s land mass is now under conservation management in the form of protected areas, private game parks, tourism concessions, conservancies and community forests.

The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga, revealed this last week in the National Assembly while motivating the MET budget of N$725.368 million for 201415. Following Cabinet approval and in line with treasury authorization the ministry conducted an auction for five trophy hunting concessions in protected areas last year. “The successful companies each have at least 20 percent previously disaantaged Namibians as shareholders. This shows that previously disaantaged Namibians are now becoming part of the trophy hunting industry,” he noted. The money that accrued from the auctions is currently being used for conservation and community development programmes. Herunga further said national parks continue to be the bedrock of the country’s tourism industry and the ministry continues to maintain and manage them for the conservation of wildlife resources.

Herunga said the ministry has put in place measures to curb wildlife crimes through intensified anti-poaching efforts. He also thanked the Namibia Defence Force (NDF) and the Namibian Police Force (Nampol) for assisting the ministry in those endeavours, while the Community-based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) support programme attracts worldwide recognition for its innovative approaches such as linking conservation to poverty alleviation. “The conservation success in communal lands has also unlocked enormous tourism development opportunities. These are providing substantial employment and livelihood benefits to rural communities,” he maintained. During the period under review the conservancy programme has been expanded bringing the total number of registered conservancies to 70, benefiting over 250 000 rural people. Herunga said tourism continues to be one of the pillars of the country’s economy as it offers “excellent opportunities” for development in many parts of the country, particularly where few other economic opportunities exist. “Therefore tourism is a vehicle with excellent potential to alleviate poverty,” said Herunga. He also called on government to allocate more resources to create resilience to drought and flooding events among rural communities, saying such events have become regular occurrences in Namibia. “The drought of the previous year and the flooding events of the years before have highlighted our vulnerability to extreme weather events. The financial and human toll from these events makes it critical for us to improve our resilience to such events, especially at the community level,” he said. According to him climate-smart agriculture, increased diversification of livelihoods and value addition to natural resources are areas where government needs to commit additional resources.

Herunga also called for a higher consideration in the budgetary allocation for the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) launched two years ago. He said to date the EIF has benefited over 10 000 people with grant financing alone, through projects that address food security and livelihood improvements, green technology and waste management, as well as education and training in relevant academic areas.

Source : New Era