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Minister Shifeta Opens Pathways Africa
Namibia’s Minister of Tourism and Environment, the Honorable Pohamba Shifeta, delivered a powerful opening address at Pathways Africa. Following is a portion of his speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed an honor and privilege to be with you today as we open the Pathways Africa Conference. It is appropriate that Namibia is the host country as the government of Namibia fully embraces conservation and has incorporated this principle into our Constitution… This momentous event will inform future research, innovation, and collaboration.
Pathways Africa examines the human dimensions in wildlife management. Namibia has long recognized that people play key roles in conservation and natural resource management. To coexist and share the same habitats with wild animals is not an easy lifestyle. Our communities bear the brunt of conflict with wild animals daily and that is why Pathways Africa is so important.
The conference organizers have chosen the theme of ‘Living with Wildlife.’ This is the Namibian philosophy of wildlife management. Namibia’s Conservancy model is internationally recognized and lays a strong foundation for communities to co-exist with wildlife. Today, we have over 100 community-based, natural resource management Conservancy, Forest and Fisheries programs in Namibia covering more than 16 million hectares, which is approximately 20% of the land mass of Namibia.
Our utilization of wildlife is guided and informed by sustainability principles and the application of science. It is a proven fact that sustainable utilization of wildlife and natural resources is fundamentally and inextricably connected to successful wildlife conservation in our country.
Namibia’s success is the result of legislation passed more than 20 years ago to empower local communities to actively manage and utilize their wildlife. This has become our pathway to success.
Our conservation plan encourages wildlife recovery and restores the environment while improving people’s livelihoods. This plan has resulted in the elephant population growing from 7,500 individuals in 1995 to 23,000 today. You may find it interesting that a large percentage of these elephants occur outside formal protected areas. The world’s largest population of black rhino exists in Namibia. Most of these individuals are on conservancy lands and are protected through community-based NGOs.
Our conservancies are our most important allies in the fight against poaching. In our experience, the local communities based in the conservancies are the champions of conservation, once they experience benefitting fairly and equitably from conservation. Their exceptional knowledge of the natural environment is invaluable for living with wildlife sustainably. It provides the foundation of human dimensions in wildlife management.
Honesty, transparency, accountability and partnership are the underlying attributes that contribute to good governance, good decision-making and sustainability. Our responsibility lies with both environmental conservation and safeguarding the interest of human beings and their livelihoods. The Earth is not ours; it is a treasure we hold in trust for future generations. To achieve this, we need to continue to search for sustainable ways in which nature and human beings can co- exist peacefully.