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Tourism ... of Namibia Print E-mail

Presentation by Mrs. Maria KAPERE, Director, Resource Management, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia

Definition of Ecotourism

There are many different opinions regarding the meaning or definition of ecotourism.  I will define it how I understand it.

“Ecotourism is constructed around the natural environment and contribute to sustainable community development through active involvement of local communities and their culture.”

Background

Tourism is very important to Namibia and it is therefore important to preserve and sustainable manage her natural resources. Namibia has 15 proclaimed parks and reserves which provide an exceptional tourist product and afford tourists the opportunity to experience the diversity of nature and all its facets throughout the country.  Namibia has diversity of scenery and from cold and desolate coasts through gravel plains, dunes, scrublands, thorn savannas and rocky hills to moist woodlands and tropical floodplains.

Institutional Framework: National strategies, Policies and Legislation for Protected Area, Tourism and Environmental Management

The following National strategies, policies and legislation assemble the institutional framework wherein the Government of Namibia operates to ensure sustainable protected area, tourism and environmental management and development.

  • § Namibian Constitution - Article 95 (l) of the Namibian Constitution commits the Government of Namibia to sustainable utilisation of Namibia’s natural resources for the benefit of all Namibians.
  • § Green Plan - “Namibia’s tourism industry is based largely on its natural resources such as wildlife, wilderness and scenery.  A sustainable tourism industry must be managed carefully to complement and broaden this resource base, not undermine it.”
  • § Nature Conservation Ordinance (Parks and Wildlife Bill) – The guide for current park and wildlife management. The Ordinance is currently under review.   The new draft bill, to become the Parks and Wildlife Act, focuses more on involvement of neighbouring communities in park management. The Nature Conservation Amendment Act of 1996 allows for the formation of communal area conservancies and grants conservancies the right to manage and utilise wildlife.
  • § Environmental Management Bill (draft) - The Act will give general principles for the management of the environment and natural resources and to establish a Sustainable Development Commission and Environmental Commissioner.   The Act will require Environmental Assessment for the erection and construction of tourism facilities and associated structures.
  • § Wildlife Management, Utilisation and Tourism in Communal Areas - The Policy aims to ensure that tourism development within Namibia is environmentally sustainable, protects biodiversity while allowing rural communities to benefit from wildlife, tourism and other natural resources. One of the objectives of the Policy is “to allow rural communities on state land to undertake tourism ventures, and to enter into co-operative agreements with commercial tourism operators to develop tourism activities on state land.“
  • § Promotion of Community Based Tourism – The Policy is to ensure that communities become partners in tourism development, and that communities gain an equitable share of tourism benefits.
  • § Draft Parks and Neighbours Policy – A policy for linking Namibian protected areas with neighbouring people and sharing protected areas with resident communities.
  • § Draft Tourism Policy – Identifies the need to determine carrying capacities for protected areas, to diversify the tourism products in parks and to develop Tourism Management plans for each park.

Ecotourism Integrated in Park Development

Past protected area management is linked to colonialism and imposed foreign cultural norms. Strategies have relied heavily on para military anti-poaching measures to keep out people who were sole seen as a threat to wildlife.

The current new approach recognises that in order to legitimise setting aside of land for wildlife and biodiversity conservation, local people need to benefit from parks and reserves. The GRN encourages and supports the development of local tourism-based enterprises by granting concessions to residents in accordance with park management plans. Protected areas stimulate regional and local development through attraction of tourists and promotion of tourism activities.

Efforts to Assure Ecotourism Development in Protected areas

Conservation and Tourism Development Vision – Caprivi and Okavango Parks

The Namibian Cabinet approved the Vision in 1999. The Caprivi Game Park is renamed the Bwabwata National Park with inclusion of the “Kwando Triangle” and the Mahango Game Park. The Vision further gives communities neighbouring to, or living in, the Bwabwata National park conditional rights in the park such that they can establish, either alone or in a joint venture, appropriate tourism facilities in the Park (see map). The MET prefers lodges or campsites to be just outside the parks with the conservancy being given a concession to guide their guests within the park. Communities that have established conservancies shall be given preference over those who have not.  Also communities neighbouring Mamili, Mudumu and Khaudom National Parks are given conditional tourism rights in these parks.

Currently the Northeast parks are underutilized and provide few benefits to the communities.  The parks have excellent tourism potential and are close to the world class tourist destinations, Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park.  The idea of Community-based tourism in the BNP emerged during the compilation of management and development plans for the Northeast parks (see map). The tourism product is primarily an “unspoiled Africa” experience and there is consensus that mass-tourism should not be allowed.  The MET did an EIA to evaluate the environmental implications of community based tourism in the Kwando Core Area of the Bwabwata National Park and developed a tourism vision for the Northeast parks which:

  • promotes the development of low-volume, low impact, high quality tourism that caters for a broad spectrum of international and local visitors,
  • requires the development of genuine partnerships between the private sector and local communities, so that the tourism product is developed to the highest professional standard, whilst profits and management are shared equitably and appropriately, and
  • establishes a strong, mutually beneficial relationship between state-owned game parks and community conservancies.

A draft memorandum of agreement (MoA) has been prepared between the MET, Kwandu and Mashi Conservancies. The MoA will give these conservancies the right to establish campsites and to conduct sight-seeing and game viewing walks in the Kwando triangle within the Bwabwata National Park.

Topnaar Community Concession

The Topnaar Community has been living along the western coast of Southern Africa for centuries.  Due to European colonisation, the establishment of the diamond area and the influx of other ethnic groups, their living area has been continuously reduced to area in and around the Kuiseb River in the Namib Naukluft Park. The area offers a beautiful, unique and fragile desert environment.

The Topnaar Community has submitted a proposal to conduct 4x4 routes and to take over three current campsites presently managed by the Ministry in their living areas within the NNP.  The venture already had drawn the attention of several investors.  The MET will consider the proposal in the light of the new approach to protected area management. The agreement will contain strong environmental guidelines and restrictions to prevent degradation of this fragile environment.

Conclusion

It is important to conserve the natural heritage for future generations, but also to contribute to improve the livelihoods of Namibians.  The focus for future protected area management will be to manage protected areas in ways that are sensitive to needs and aspirations of people whose lives are impacted or effected by these areas and try to establish the balance between conservation and development.

Source: Seminar on Planning, Development and Management of Ecotourism in Africa.
Regional Preparatory Meeting for the International Year of Ecotourism, 2002.
(Maputo, Mozambique, 5-6 March 2001)

 

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