- The Namibian government is to "scale-up community-based ecosystem management for the benefit of rural people, biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use," and has attracted a US$ 7.1 million loan to finance such a project. The project focuses on the biodiversity outside Namibia's many national parks and reserves.
Although Namibia is well known for some of its world-class national parks - including Etosha, Skeleton Coast and Namib-Naukluft - much of the locally and globally important biodiversity can be found outside these parks. About 85 percent of Namibia's population lives in these rural areas, depending largely on limited livestock grazing and marginal farming.
To manage these important ecosystems outside protected areas, the Namibian government has launched a project that is to include local societies. The 5-year project is to work through Namibia's "Community Conservancy" Programme "to improve rural livelihoods and promote sustainable environmental management." Much of the funding is to be made available directly to rural communities.
The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism is the implementing agency of this project. "This programme has expanded beyond expectations and has already resulted in significant levels of community participation in the recovery and management of important natural resources such as wildlife, and economic benefits from those resources to rural communities," comments Malan Lindeque, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry.
The project in particular is to offer direct funding and technical assistance to rural populations to address the lack of local level capacity and financial start-up resources for ecosystem-based income-generating micro-projects.
Identified activities include among others the development of community-based tourism facilities including joint ventures with the private sector, trophy hunting, game meat production, commercialisation of indigenous plants and craft production. All these activities are thought to "contribute to create local employment and to diversify rural livelihood strategies as well as providing an important buffer against drought and other external impacts on the resource base."
The project further is set to assist the government of Namibia to continue its efforts towards the development of a sustainable funding mechanism and an integrated policy and legal framework for community-based ecosystem management.
With this biodiversity project, Namibia for the first time ever has achieved financing from the World Bank. The Bank yesterday in Washington approved a US$ 7.1 million Global Environment Facility (GEF) grant to the Namibian government to co-finance the ecosystem management project.
World Bank officials were content to participate in the Namibian environmental project. "The project will help conserve and restore ecosystems services in some of the most critical habitats found on communal lands while promoting sustainable use for income generation throughout Namibia's communal conservancy network, which covers currently some 29 registered conservancies with 150,000 residents across 75 000 square kilometres," said Rick Scobey of the World Bank.
The Namibian Ministry of Environment also said it was "pleased that additional funding has been made available by the GEF through the World Bank in support of Namibia's community-based natural resource management programme," according to Mr Lindeque. "This grant will enhance the Ministry's capacity to support this program and expand its benefits," he added.
The total overall investment from a range of stakeholders will amount to US$ 32.43 million. This includes funding from the government of Namibia, the World Bank and French US and German development agencies.
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