Conservation gets funding boost
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided US$8.5 million and Germany’s development agency, Kreditanstalt f’r Wiederaufbau, US$3.5 million, with the Namibian government adding US$27.4 million in cash and kind. The GEF, established in 1991, helps developing countries fund environmental projects and programmes. “Unlocking the potential of the parks in Namibia will have a significant impact on poverty alleviation and economic growth in rural areas,” said Simon Nhongo, UN resident coordinator in Namibia. Tourism contributed US$450 million to the economy in 2004 and employs approximately 54,000 people. The funds, pledged last month, are earmarked for the SPAN project (Strengthening the Protected Area Network) which will run in two phases until 2016, and involve four major parks. These are the world-famous Etosha National Park in northcentral Namibia, the Ai Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park along the Fish River Canyon close to the South African border, an area between the Skeleton Coast Park and Etosha, which will be linked to the western boundaries of Etosha, and the Sperrgebiet along the southern coastline. Three smaller parks in communal areas in the northeastern Caprivi Region, the Bwabwata, the Mudumu and Mamili are also included. These three have little infrastructure and need proper development plans and accommodation for tourists other than the existing community campsites, run by the local resi- dents. Lack of funds, low salaries, and shortages of equipment have undermined Namibia’s conservation efforts. “SPAN will tackle park management issues at three levels ‘ improving national policy and planning for better park management for conservation, strengthening of the ministry’s institutional capacity, training and to drastically improve site-level management of the selected parks,” said Midori Paxton, project coordinator for SPAN. Already some equipment has been delivered to the Etosha National Park, which was proclaimed nearly a hundred years ago in 1907 and covers 22,270 square kilometres. “The game guards in the western part of Etosha received binoculars, GPS devices and digital cameras to carry out their tasks like patrolling, game counts and to keep poachers away,” said Raili Hasheela, deputy coordinator of the SPAN project. “The first off-road vehicle for them was delivered and more will follow.” More support is also on the way for other protected areas. The Namibia Coast Conservation and Management project (NACOMA) kicked off this month with US$4.9 million from the GEF and another US$1.2 million from the Namibian government. Over the next five years, NACOMA will provide conservation planning for the entire 1 500 long coastline of the country, from the Kunene River mouth in the north to the Orange River Delta in the south, covering beaches, wetlands and lagoons. “NACOMA will support the coastal towns to develop local environment policies which are linked to and are integrated into regional and national policies,” said tourism and environment minister, Willem Konjore. The tourism industry is the country’s third largest economic sector after mining and fishing and contributes seven percent to GDP, according to the latest annual report of the Bank of Namibia. About 650,000 tourists visit Namibia each year. ‘ Irin.