Return of wildlife to the Zambezi
It was quite musical to listen to the sentiments made by one of the passionate and fervent environmentalists, Morgan Maiba Saisai of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism based in the Zambezi Region.
It is the purpose of this article to communicate this wonderful story of the advent of wildlife in Namibia in general and in the Zambezi region in particular. The now Chief Control Warden confidently boasts that the current wildlife status that is likely to lure visitors from both Namibia and abroad is the result of government’s initiative to repopulate the country with its flora and fauna.
Morgan Saisai stresses that the wildlife of Namibia began to take a nosedive and dissipate in the colonial era. The plummeting wildlife could be blamed on both the fellow native Namibians and the colonial elite. The colonial masters took land and erected it into commercial farms for themselves and benefited from the proceeds of Namibia’s rich wildlife resources.
It is the alienation of the right to resource use by the colonial regime that triggered animal violence. The white minority had the right to use our resources on their commercial land, and the Namibian blacks were denied that right.
This did not sit well with fellow Namibians, who could not just stand aside, while their resources were being plundered by the elitists, who were bound to enrich themselves at the expense of the local, black majority. The Namibian men and women then declared war against wildlife.
Veteran environmentalist Saisai argues that his fellow Namibians discovered the availability of black markets, where they could trade wildlife gains garnered via illicit means. The black Africans developed selfish attitudes as far as the utilization of natural resources were concerned.
Namibians realized they could access expensive cars. They now knew, just like their white counterparts, they could acquire mansions for themselves. The black Namibians began to enlist fellow blacks to invade territories like conservancies where wildlife was preserved.
The poaching activities began to grow and eventually developed into a syndicate whose tentacles reached international territories. They, for instance, realized they could get rich from illicit trading in rhino horns and elephant tusks.
The aspirations of resource use quickly rose from low aspirations to high ones. High aspirations entail the uneconomical and insatiable desires people developed and aspired to meet via wildlife resources. The low aspirations, or the sustainable aspirations, of the Namibia of the old days were dwarfed by these money making endeavors.
Saisai claims that the dwindling number of wildlife can only be correlated to land grabs of today where citizens vie for land for either housing or agricultural purposes. If this trend is to be left unaddressed, the residents would begin to claim land in protected areas. People would aspire to accumulate stretches of land in imitation of rich fellow Namibians, who might have acquired land through opaque means.
At independence, the trend had to be reverted back to periods where humans and animals cohabited without incidents of territorial conflict. Saisai wished to see the days of his youth come back. He cites the relationship that existed between wildlife and human inhabitants of Lusese as something that was quite awesome.
Saisai grew up exposed to nature and his livelihood depended on the wildlife in Lusese. It is that very life that built his love towards building a career in nature conservation. His father was a pastoralist who tended cattle and grew crops for subsistence purposes. Saisai senior was a traditional fishermen who was famous for his fishing activities in areas far and wide.
He was known to residents of Kabbe in the west. The residents of the Impalila Island in the east began to pronounce his name at a very tender age. His fishing skills were told to many in areas stretching from the banks of the Chobe River near Ngoma to the banks of the Zambezi River near Luhonono.
The desire of the government of the day to address tenure rights to wildlife saw the dream of Saisai become real. The introduction of the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme was initiated by government.
The programme meant to enhance community livelihood, employment creation, poverty reduction, rural development and even the general empowerment of people in rural Namibia. Saisai claims it is this very programme that has led to the birth of Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (KAZATFCA). This is the frontier endowed with high value species of tourism attraction.
Morgan Saisai is just so proud to see the attainment of community involvement in wild life management, and even the return of wildlife ownership and cultural heritage that has reached satisfactory levels in many parts of the Zambezi region. The wildlife population has risen to unimaginable levels.
The old days are back. Any pessimist can visit the Lusese flood plains and bear witness to the days of the 1950s. Animals like antelopes that had neared extinction have come back. The zebras that had vacated the flood plains of eastern Zambezi region have made a huge U-turn and reclaimed their former territories.
The Mashi and Linyathi rivers are regaining their glory days. The local residents cannot comprehend how these places have reinvented and redefined themselves to the amazement of many residents. These mammals have multiplied incredibly at levels only the heavens can explain.
The Zambezi Region now can boast about 16 conservancies that undertake conservation hunting and tourism. The different conservancies have managed to generate employment opportunities for many young people.
This is the opportunity Saisai had been living to see. Protection and conserving natural resources is his passion that defines the way he lives life. He bemoans the unfortunate situation where fellow Namibians are still clung to the habit of selfish accumulation of wealth using the resources of all of us.
Such kinds of ambitious attainment of wealth include the massive clearing of land for crops and for high stocking rate that is turning fashionable in our country.
Saisai toured universities in Southern Africa seeking to access tertiary education in Environmental and Natural Resource Management. These qualifications he has amassed in this field are the flagships that should indicate his lifetime allegiance to wildlife protection.
These qualifications should demonstrate to fellow Namibians that conservation of wildlife is the profession he values, enjoys, and a profession for which he is prepared to put his life on the line.