Conservancies Face Many Problems

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By Surihe Gaomas KHORIXAS UNCONTROLLED tourism activities, poaching, animal-human conflict, border disputes between the different conservancies and claims of self-enrichment by conservancy members are some of the challenges facing conservancies in the Kunene Region. This revelation was made during a recent fact-finding mission in the Kunene Region by a parliamentary team tasked with economics and natural resources. In light of this, conservancies such as Twyfelfontein-Uibasen, Doro !Nawas and !=Khoadi //Haos want Government to come up with a law that will regulate these illegal activities. With the ever -increasing numbers of wildlife, particularly elephants, the problem of conflict between animals and humans is now being experienced . Statistics indicate that in the early 1980’s, there were only 250 elephants and 65 black rhinos in the northwest but over the past 30 years these numbers have more than doubled. Furthermore, aerial surveys show that the numbers of springbok, mountain zebra and oryx have more than tripled, while the frequency of giraffe and ostrich sightings rose between 1,5 and 2,5 times. Much of this growth is attributed to a drastic reduction in illegal hunting and poaching in the conservancy areas of Twyfelfontein-Uibasen, Doro !Nawas and !=Khoadi //Haos. However in !=Khoadi //Haos conservancy, which means “Elephants’ Corner” in Damara/Nama, villagers are frequently attacked by elephants, where people either lose their lives or property. “We have a big problem of elephants here where they are destroying boreholes as they move up and down and because of this, rural communities need some kind of compensation because they are sitting without water at the end of the day,” said Bob !=Guibeb, the coordinator of the !=Khoadi //Haos Conservancy. Just recently, an elephant trampled a woman to death together with her baby during the early hours of one fateful morning. Suggestions from the conservancy committees are that the Government should seek alternative forms of compensation as the situation is said to be getting out of hand. Electric fencing and the use of special repellents are other ways of keeping wildlife away from fields and vegetable gardens. Quite interestingly, a “chilli spray” which is made from ground chillies and converted into a spray is being tested in the Caprivi Region where elephants are also causing havoc for communities there. Meanwhile, the parliamentary team that visited the Twyfelfontein-Uibasen Conservancy learned that uncontrolled tourism has become a concern. The area has a small population of 300 inhabitants. According to the chairperson of the conservancy, Johannes !Nauseb, there are fears that as the conservancy gains more popularity for its beneficial activities, increasing numbers of people may be drawn to the area. This may result in what he termed uncontrolled tourism. “People are camping wherever they like in rivers and making camp fires where they are not supposed to. We are worried that activities like these will in future harm the natural environment,” explained !Nauseb. What makes matters worse is that conservancy members do not have the right to tell people where to camp because it is against the free movement of people based on the constitution. Poaching from people outside the conservancies has also become a headache. “Communal game guards should be given the power to at least arrest any poacher, because we have to wait for a long time before the police come from towns like Khorixas and Windhoek,” stated one concerned member of the !=Aodaman Traditional Authority. Closely associated with this is the issue of off-road driving where visitors drive criss-crossing the area, leaving tracks on the ground that normally take up to seven years to vanish. However, Zeka Alberto of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) informed the committee that there is a law called ‘citizen’s arrest’ based on the 1977 Criminal Procedures Act. The procedure here is that if someone sees a culprit in the act of committing a crime, he or she can arrest that person until the police arrive. Yet this should not be done in a punishing or detaining manner, but with a civil approach. Internal squabbles were evident at the Doro !Nawas conservancy where committee members alluded to self-enrichment by certain members at the expense of the community. “Some people see conservation as self-enrichment schemes. So, people think that they own the conservancy and this is where all the internal problems start,” said the chairman of Doro !Nawas Conservancy Leonard! Hoaeb. He added that some people use the noble objectives of the conservancy for their own benefit and hidden agenda, citing loopholes in the system. In view of this, the Minister of Environment and Tourism Willem Konjore will be heading to the Kunene Region to address this burning issue and others on December 15. Concerns have been raised that such in-fighting could ultimately chase investors away. This would mean loss of donor funds that are essential for development.

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