Sustainable Utilization And Protecting Biodiversity

1 Jul 2024

“I see animals in the rocks around me. One immediately reminded me of an elephant when I saw it for the first time. This was where I wanted to live and start a business”, Monica Areses said with a smile on her face and her eyes sparkling.

She had a little kiosk near the famous White Lady rock painting, selling refreshments to tourists before they started hiking. Visitors asked her why there was no camping at the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, famous for the enormous number of rock paintings and less well-known for its unique biodiversity. When Monica inquired if she could start a camping spot at the mountain, she found out that it was not allowed by the National Heritage Council and started looking for a suitable alternative spot. Two guides brought her to a rocky outcrop next to the D2342, south of the mighty Brandberg.

In 2007, together with her late husband, the mother of four had obtained all the documentation and authorization from line ministries, local authorities and the Tsiseb communal conservancy and was able to realize her dream. It took many more years of hard work with little financial backing before she was able to welcome her first clients, a couple, in 2016 at her own campsites and little restaurant.

Brandberg Elephant Rock Campsite is 40 km from Uis and 127 km from Henties Bay. Hopefully soon her regular trips to Uis to fetch water will be a thing of the past and she will have her own borehole at the camp. This is possible with the help of the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) who not only assist her with the borehole but also installed a solar system, improved internet connectivity, helped to put up road signs and install a sewage system, and supplied some restaurant equipment. Through the GIZ Biodiversity Economy Project she received finance system and first aid training.

Monica has four staff members; her children do help her when on holidays and she does most repairs and construction work around her campsites herself. Campsite 1 has its own toilet and shower while2, 3 and 4 share two toilets and showers. Eight campsites are available, and shade has been put up at campsites 3, 4 and 5.

The objectives of the Biodiversity Economy Project of GIZ were “to develop biodiversity economy in selected landscapes, coordinate a landscape approach, links to biodiversity activities and promote the benefits of inhabitants from vibrant and sustainable use of biodiversity”. Eco-entrepreneurs depend directly on the sustainable use of biodiversity or contribute to the conservation of biodiversity says Marc Gross, leader of the project.

The support given during the last few years to the now completed project consisted largely of capacity building. This included training on business skills, financial systems, first aid and hospitality. Additionally, campsites and guesthouses within suitable landscapes were supported, local tour guides were trained, crafters and farmers supplying fresh produce were involved, and assistance was given to establish a Herero Cultural Living Museum. Dina Namubes, owner of the Môrewag Campsite and Tours, was another beneficiary of the project. She worked at the National Marine Aquarium in Swakopmund and had a lot of contact with tourists there. It was German visitors “who encouraged me to start a guesthouse in Swakopmund to cater for tourists seeking a simple local African experience”. The business is a success. Dina had stayed for 38 years at Môrewag and decided to start a campsite with her late husband. She put a lot of her own resources into the project and the GIZ helped her with infrastructure development like craft stalls and tented rooms. A solar pump was installed at a nearby farmhouse to supply water for the campsite but now the whole community benefits from that borehole. Road signage was put up to on the D2628 west of Khorixas in the Kunene Region where eleven campsites, non-tented and tented, await the visitors. Some rock paintings are at and near the campsites and the craft stalls are to the benefit of the community members who can display and sell their artwork to the visitors of Môrewag. Meals are served at a small restaurant for day and overnight guests. 

Further north, north of Kamanjab and west of Etosha National Park in the Ehirovipuka communal conservancy at Otjokavare, the first Herero Cultural Living Museum has been established. Traditional huts were erected using traditional building materials and the traditional life can be experienced and will be explained to visitors.

Communities in northern Erongo Region and Kunene Region need to benefit from tourism since their livelihoods after eleven years of drought are in jeopardy. Most households lost all their cattle and / or small stock because of a lack of grazing. During Covid, income through tourism came to a standstill and a lot of people had to move to live with family in towns, placing an additional burden on family members. Projects like the one of GIZ can make a difference.

Text and photos by Dirk Heinrich

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