The 22nd of May marks the International Day for Biological Diversity. It was proclaimed by the United Nations in December 2000 to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. It aims to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Namibia has a rich natural heritage, with diverse ecosystems and world-renowned wildlife. Fisheries, agriculture and tourism form part of the backbone of the Namibian economy. They all depend on the wise management of biodiversity to ensure their long-term contribution to the economy and to healthy and resilient communities.
The importance of biological diversity as a foundation of human development is clearly recognized in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development Goal 15 calls for the protection and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems and to sustainably manage forests, reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. Goal 14 specifically calls for the conservation and sustainable use of our oceans.
In Namibia, natural resources hold the key for fostering a sustainable development path and to combat poverty, by creating sustainable jobs and utilising biodiversity for the benefit of current and future generations. Around 70% of Namibia’s population rely on the natural environment for their livelihood needs in terms of income, food, fuel and shelter.
Since independence, the Namibian Government, civil society and the private sector have worked towards developing and implementing strong environmental management standards and laws. Namibia has adopted progressive policies which promote both conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity, allowing local communities to benefit from utilizing the country’s diverse natural capital and thus incentivizing its conservation. But increasing pressures such as land use changes, over-exploitation, pollution and poaching of wildlife threaten to diminish biodiversity and undermine past conservation successes.
Namibia was one of the first countries worldwide to provide for environmental protection in its constitution. It is a signatory to the international environmental agreements on climate change, conservation of biological diversity and combatting desertification (the so-called Rio-Conventions). Environmental concerns and conservations efforts feature prominently in the country’s development plans and policies.
The recently adopted fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) vows to sustainably manage the country’s natural resources. It establishes environmental sustainability as one of the four pillars to achieve long-term and more equal economic development. The plan specifically aims at safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity, and to enhance job creation and value addition through the sustainable utilization of biodiversity.
On the international level, Namibia and Germany have long been working together in the context of the United Nations to promote the conservation of biodiversity as an important global common good. On the bilateral level, Germany has been continuously supporting Namibia’s efforts to improve environmental management and resource protection through the framework of its bilateral development cooperation. In 2017, the German Government has committed another 38.5 million Euros (app. 570 million NAD) to support financial and technical cooperation projects which help conserve Namibia’s unique natural environment and help use its natural resources sustainably.
The current financial and technical cooperation projects within the focal area of sustainable use and management of natural resources focus primarily on developing the infrastructure and management of Namibia’s national parks, on enhancing wildlife management to reduce poaching incidences and on promoting sound environmental management and the conservation of biodiversity. Germany also provides technical assistance to further strengthen Namibia’s successful Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) approach in its community conservancies as well as mobilising new resources for biodiversity conservation from both government and private sources.
Led by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), activities supported by projects include, for example, the development of national park infrastructure, the training and equipment of wildife rangers, addressing human-wildlife conflict as well as improving the regulatory framework for environmental management and for a more equitable utilisation of biological resources in the country. Key objectives are the development of technical and management capacities as well as generating new value chains for biological resources to diversify the income of rural communities. This helps not only to sustainably reduce economic disparities and inequality, but to provide further incentives to protect biodiversity and a healthy environment. To ensure the beneficial impact of these measures, the projects involve multiple public and private stakeholders, including other relevant Government Ministries, the Sustainable Development Advisory Council (SDAC), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as scientific and research organisations.
Results achieved so far
The German-Namibian bilateral cooperation looks back at a long and well-established partnership to support the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The many joint project activities have contributed so far to continuously expanding the country’s conservation efforts and to help secure the livelihoods and development potentials of particularly the rural population. Since celebrating last year’s International Day for Biological Diversity, further progress has been achieved by the Namibian Government with the support from financial and technical cooperation projects:
- More than 3 million ha. of community forests are under sustainable management through Forest Management Committees (FMCs), within a total of 32 management plans currently being implemented;
- The integrated management of National Parks leads to increased revenue being generated from Namibia’s protected areas. For example, a new joint venture agreement was established for the Kazile Island Lodge in Bwabwata National Park between the Mashi Conservancy and a safari operator;
- A new, web-based digital monitoring system has been developed and is being tested to improve the management and compliance of community-conserved areas. In 10 community conservancies, at least one new and additional source of income has been developed, contributing to the diversification of rural economies;
- To respond to the increase in human-wildlife conflict, the development of a policy to address and mitigate human-wildlife conflict has been supported. In addition, new infrastructure and technologies to help protect communities against human-wildlife conflict have been provided;
- A revised regulatory framework has been developed for the Environmental Management Act of 2007, and is ready for gazetting. This will help to improve the quality and efficiency of environmental impact assessments and increase the awareness about environmental issues among the general public;
- In June 2017, a dedicated law was passed by Parliament on the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic and biological resources. This will help to ensure the self-determination of rural communities and increase their benefits from the utilisation of biological resources such as marula-oil or devil’s claw;
- Over the years, Germany has continuously supported the organization of B-Days in Namibia. I believe it is of utmost importance to increase communication and education to raise awareness about environmental issues in Namibia: Close to 1,000 school learners of all ages participated successfully in events to inform them about the importance of biodiversity, such as for example during the Youth Environmental Summit in May 2017 at the Gobabeb Research and Training Centre, or at the National Heritage Weeks in Swakopmund, Namutoni and Rundu in September 2017. This week, learners from all over Namibia have gathered in Khorixas under the theme “25 Years of Action in Biodiversity” for the Youth Environmental Summit 2018.
Germany stands ready to continue assisting and accompanying Namibia on its sustainable development path to both conserve its unique natural environment and fight poverty. During our last Government Negotiations on Development Cooperation in September last year, the German side has almost doubled its commitment to Namibia from almost 75 to more than 133 million Euros or 2.2 billion NAD for the coming year, of which 38.5 million Euros or 570 million NAD are allocated for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. This shows that Germany remains committed to work with Namibia for a better future of its People.