N$97 million for human-wildlife conflict mitigation

Obrein Simasiku

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) has received financial boost amounting to millions of dollars to prevent, mitigate and respond to rising cases related to human-wildlife conflicts as well as poaching in communal areas, conservancies and national parks.

An amount of 96-million-766-thousanda-308 dollars, was made available through a sponsorship by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to sustain the five-year project, ending in 2027. The project, dubbed, the ‘Integrated Approach to Proactive Management of Human-Wildlife Conflict and Wildlife Crime in Hotspot Landscapes in Namibia,’ was launched today in Windhoek, by the MEFT in collaboration with GEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Under this project, there is a plan to develop a Low Grant Facility, which will support communities to develop enterprises that will help them benefit from wildlife. In addition, there is provision for training related to addressing wildlife crime, provision equipment for law enforcement officials and the intelligence. Training will also be provided in the Investigation Unit, develop frameworks for addressing wildlife crime, and will invest in the monitoring of movements of rhinos and elephants, said Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta during the launch.

“I am deeply convinced that this opportunity will bring comfort to those who have only seen the negative side of wildlife and not the positive side yet – hoping that it will contribute to change of attitudes towards wildlife and eventually reducing human-wildlife incidences. Apart from reducing human-wildlife conflicts, this project also seeks to contribute to the reduction of wildlife crime incidences,” he added.

Emphasising the significance of the project, Shifeta stressed that, a day hardly passes without hearing of a human-wildlife issue, hence it is important to embrace it. The impact, he said, is mostly felt by communities and farmers living with wildlife.

“This hits them really hard to the point of leaving them in distress and poverty. Many people who have experienced the pain of livestock losses or damage caused by wildlife end up feeling hopeless and do not see the benefits of continuing to live with these animals. However, it is almost impossible to separate the two as they will in one way or another always live together or closer to each other. It is therefore important to promote co-existence of human and wildlife,” he reiterated.

Conflicts are mostly as a result of human encroachment on wildlife corridors or habitats, which exposes livestock, human lives and property to predators, losses and damage. In terms of wild-life crimes, it will help harness cases of poaching and illegal trade of wildlife products and other protected species. He highlighted rhinos and elephants as the most targeted by individuals due to their economic value – activities that are not in the national interest, which seeks the beneficiation of the underprivileged communities, through wildlife. Preservation.

“I sincerely believe that this project will make a significant impact on the current efforts to address the twin challenge of human-wildlife conflict and wildlife crime. However, this will only succeed if all relevant stakeholders join hands to work together and support the project,” quipped Shifeta.

Meanwhile, the governor of Zambezi Region in his state of the region address today equally highlighted the importance and need to protect wildlife and combat poaching which is rife in the area. Sampofu, noted that, limited budgetary allocation hampered staff members to attend to some human wildlife conflict incidents in the region.

These financial constraints, he said, causes delay the timely payments of human wildlife conflict claims, which results in affected farmers ever complaining about the system.

Community at heart

UNDP resident representative to Namibia, Alka Bhatia, in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, stressed that communities should not be forgotten as they are the custodians of the natural resources and wildlife, hence they should be provided with incentives to resuscitate them.

“These communities are caught up between the preservation and protection of the environment, while through various means, trying to survive and support their livelihood. During the past few years, many of our communities lost their income generation activities, with several nature-based tourism activities hampered during the pandemic restrictions,” remarked Bhatia.

“These communities have to live with constant fear due to the loss of lives and infrastructure as a result of human-wildlife conflict. As such, we should be proactive in ensuring that there are incentives derived from conservation management practices to curb poaching and other wildlife crimes, hence, the timely intervention of this project,” she pressed

By Observer