Today, Namibia is often heralded as a rare and triumphant conservation success story on the African continent.
40% of Namibia’s land is currently under conservation management. It is believed to be the only African country where wildlife numbers are growing rather than decreasing.The country is home to the world’s largest cheetah population, as well as flourishing populations of lion, black rhinos, zebra, oryx and other wildlife.
However, back in the 1980s the country’s wildlife stocks had been almost entirely decimated by a combination of severe drought, poaching and the so-called Border War that had engulfed Namibia, South Africa and Angola since the late 70s.
So what changed?
After gaining independence from South Africa in 1990, Namibia was the first country in Africa to incorporate environmental protection into its constitution. The government passed a landmark law that put the ownership, and therefore, the benefits, of natural resources in the hands of local communities, who were allowed to set up “conservancies”.
With the help of the government, the WWF and various other Namibian partners, training, grants and technical assistance were provided to communities to help them protect their land and manage it sustainably. By 2011, 235,000 people across Namibia had joined together to create 59 special conservation areas, which protect 132,000 sq km of vital wildlife habitat and directly benefit the local communities. Today, there are 79 conservancies and still more to come.
A stable country
Since it gained independence, Namibia has remained a peaceful, stable and secure (both politically and economically) country with minimal crime, welcoming locals and generally good infrastructure and amenities.
All of this has helped attract increasing numbers of international tourists to a country that has certainly never been short on attractions. For the past few years, more than one million tourists have visited Namibia and the number is still growing steadily year on year.
Bearing in mind Namibia’s emphasis on responsible tourism and conservation, the money that these tourists bring with them into Namibia has played a substantial role in the success of the country’s conservancies, anti-poaching efforts and so on.
A few statistics that illustrate Namibia’s success
- In 2011, the WWF reported that there’d been a 47% increase in wildlife sightings in Namibia since 2004
- Namibia’s elephant population has risen from around 13,000 to 20,000 in the last decade
- In the northwest of the country, where lions were down to under two dozen, they now total roughly 130.
- Namibia’s conservancies bring in about $4.8 million annually