NAMIBIA NATURE FOUNDATION TURNS 30
This year, the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) is celebrating 30 years in conservation. In this period, NNF can reflect with a sense of pride on many conservation milestones reached and notable achievements that have been realized.
Before independence, Louw Schoemann, a lawyer and nature passionate, became increasingly aware of the irreversible damages that threaten ecosystems in very dry climates if conservation efforts were not urgently made and taken seriously. It became apparent to him that this should be done not only by official authorities, but that there was a clear need for an independent organisation to focus on conservation issues. In 1987, he founded the Namibia Nature Foundation with the support and patronage of Mr. KWR List of the Ohlthaver and List Group.
At first, the NNF assisted the (then) Department of Nature Conservation to raise and administer funds for the conservation of wildlife and protected area management. The NNF had a rather modest beginning, the opening bank balance equated to R 100 000, a generous contribution by the former Sarusas Development Fund, kindly arranged by Skerf Pottas and Louw Schoeman. But it was also a relatively unknown organisation and the first Director Douglas Reissner (1989-1993) took to marketing the organisation, making contact with a wide range of other institutions across the world. The initial projects during Namibia’s year of independence focused on anti-poaching support, funding to enable environmental education at existing MET facilities, develop a fund-raising capability both internationally and through Namibian corporate membership and establish linkages with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, local community-based NGO’s, like-minded NGO’s within the SADC region and beyond. One of the first steps was to gain accreditation by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). Douglas says “The formative role of the NNF, was not one of implementing projects, but rather funding facilitation through third-party donors, including direct fundraising activities primarily for MET and Namibian NGO’s, that cooperated with local communities.” This scope of work continued through-out much of the 1990’s under the leadership of Mr P Tyldesley (1993-1997) and Dr P van Rooyen (1997-1998). In 1998 the Board appointed Dr Chris Brown (1998-2010) as the new Executive Director and in doing so signaled a change in scope and mandate of the NNF.
Dr Brown came in with a clear focus on, livelihoods (improving the quality of life) and conserving the natural resource base through the creation of positive incentives for sustainable development. He also recognised that ‘sustainable development and sound environmental management are not realised by individuals or organisations working in isolation. They are only achieved through people working together, in partnership with one another, towards a common vision.’ This laid the basis of the NNF as it is known today and the basis for the NNF’s two most successful products over the last 30 years, people and partnerships. It is the people of the NNF who have driven the organisation to many successes, large and small. It is impossible to single out any one person but it is a fact that the alumni of the NNF are regularly encountered at any environmental meeting and have gone on to careers in other NGO’s, Government, Private Sector and the international development community.
At the same time the NNF has established solid partnerships across the same spectrum of NGO’s, Government, private sector and with the international development community. Dr Brown had agreed to serve the NNF for a decade and stepped down in 2010, when a suitable replacement in the form of Dr Julian Fennessy (2010-2012) took over at the NNF. Julian took over at a time of a rapidly changing donor environment driven largely by the reclassification of Namibia as an upper middle income country and the fall out of the 2008 financial crisis. During this time the NNF had to reinvent itself and in a short space of time set up forward looking structures which have helped the NNF ride the challenges of the last few years. In one of the most challenging periods the NNF was held up by Acting Directors Ms Sally Wood & Maria Pimenta (2012-2013), before Mr Angus Middleton was recruited to take up the position of Executive Director in November 2013.
The NNF is, without doubt, an organisation with a difference, involved in a very diverse portfolio which illustrates the organisation’s passion for Namibian Nature and People. The work of the NNF has expanded in both scope and capacity to incorporate projects which are focused on social ecosystems; global environmental issues and policies; natural ecosystems and biodiversity and both productive land- and seascapes, with the key aim of supporting the works of the Namibian Government and local communities regarding wildlife conservation, natural resource management and rural livelihoods development. Through the years, the NNF has developed its expertise as a financial management service provider, in addition to being a major organisation in the field of conservation.
The NNF remains a leading NGO for nature conservation in Namibia but it is, first and foremost, an organization led by passion with 30 staff members working at any one time on between 30-50 projects around the country, very often working closely with communities in order to protect nature’s richness for the present and future generations. Our motto is “Love Namibia, Love Nature” and we believe in finding innovative conservation solutions which make economic sense for the communities living in and from these fragile environmental landscapes which constitute Namibia.
However, more than ever the primary aims of the NNF, which are to promote sustainable development, to conserve biological diversity and natural ecosystems and to utilise natural resources wisely and ethically for the benefit of all Namibians, not only remain highly relevant but are also proving ever more challenging.
It is fair to say that the NNF remains the go to organisation for conservation and sustainable development, not because we can do everything, but rather because we know the best placed people and partners who can.
The future is a mugs game but we know that the designation of Namibia as an upper middle income country has necessitated that the government realign its expenditure towards basic social services at a cost to aspects such as environmental expenditure; whilst at the same time support funding in all sectors becomes increasingly project based and metric leaving few resources for organisations such as the NNF to champion the broader concepts of sustainable development. As a result the NNF has been under-going a transition towards a social enterprise that works for pro-people pro-conservation outcomes. The challenges both globally and in Namibia are immense but there is every reason to be optimistic as Namibia has already achieved so much in terms of conservation and more people are starting to realise how they benefit from the biodiversity that under pins our economy.
In the end it is down to each of us to do our bit in small ways and more importantly to support working together to achieve positive outcomes, we thank all the people and partners who have carried the NNF this far.
With 30 years of experience the Namibia Nature Foundation as a product of its people and partnerships (past, present and future) is very well positioned to make a difference to keeping Namibia natural and loving it!
SUCCESS STORY FOR CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE (CA)
Alfred Tumelo, a farmer in the Sachona area of the Zambezi region, started practicing Conservation Agriculture (CA) in 2006. He was persuaded after the introduction of a project called Community Economic Development Project (CEDP) supported by CLUSA (Cooperative League of the USA), which was funded by the World Wildlife fund (WWF). Alfred started with a 10x10m plot growing maize and groundnuts; he used the hand hoe method due to a lack of a draught animal needed for ripping.
Alfred learnt the basic principles of CA and followed them accordingly, though he found it was hard work at first. He had to dig the basins, apply manure, plant the seeds, and weed constantly. In the first year, Alfred harvested 75 kg (7.5tons/ha) of maize and the yield was much higher than what he would normally obtain with conventional farming methods, so this motivated him.
In 2007, Alfred extended his CA maize plot to 20x20m. His main concerns were the labour required for weeding, and that any type of mulch was scarce due to the drought that hit Namibia the same year. He decided to reduce his 4ha conventional field to 2ha. The rain came early in November, after he had already planted. Precipitation was deficient that year; in mid-December, when some farmers were still planting maize, the rain was absent for almost a month. Many of the crops that were planted late suffered, but Alfred’s maize production was unaffected, because his soil that was covered with mulch maintained considerable moisture-holding capacity. His crops had established a good root system to withstand the dry period. At the end of the season, the harvest from his CA plot captured the attention of other farmers; everyone wanted to learn the new dynamic technique that provided Alfred with such a high yield. His maize harvest in the second year was 220 kg. Due to the small amount of rainfall, his conventional plot only yielded two and half bags (weighing 50 kg each, total = 125 kg).
In 2008, the project realized the potential in Alfred and decided to send him to Imusho, Zambia to train farmers in CA. Because the yields were consistently high on his CA plots, Alfred was encouraged to cultivate ¼ of a hectare in 2011, continuing to use the hand hoe method. However, this task was not easy to carry out. He had little money and not enough labour or time; he became one of the most influential people in CA promotion, therefore limiting the time he could spend on his plot. When he completed his land preparation, Alfred once again applied manure and mulch and waited for the rain to moisten his soil. This 50x50m plot yielded 18 bags of maize, weighing 50kg each. He sold 10 bags and earned N$2000, most of which he used to purchase an ox for N$1500. Because Alfred’s yield continued to increase, he was able to buy another ox and pay for two of his children’s education the following year.
It was clear to Alfred that CA offered many rewards and was well worth the effort. From 2014 to 2015, with funding from USAID through the Namibia Conservation Agriculture Project, he received more CA training. He expanded his field to 1ha, turning out a harvest of forty 50kg bags. He sold 20 of those bags, from which he earned N$4,200. Alfred used his income to reinvest in his business: he bought wire for the fence around his field, more drought-resistant seeds, fertilizer, and paid others for labour that was required for weeding and harvesting. In the same year, he was declared the best farmer in the region. He invited farmers and the media (NBC) and Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) to witness a field day he organized.
In the 2016/17 season, Alfred joined the CA project implemented by the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) on Sustainable Community Partnership (SCP), funded by the WWF. He was hired to work as a Farmer Instructor to assist farmers in understanding CA concepts and to diversify their crops to increase their income. Currently, Alfred is working with nine lead farmers, seven service providers, and 20 contact farmers. This season, he has also expanded his field to 2ha, using the ripping method, as he now owns both the oxen and the ripper necessary to carry out this activity.
Through his experience with CA, Alfred has come to realize that “it is a farming system which requires commitment, perseverance, and hard work. It is a process, not something that can be achieved overnight; 3 – 5 years of learning through practice will guarantee adoption”.
MEME ITUMBAPO WOMEN’S GROUP AND CRAFT CENTRE
Each year 300 000 seabirds are killed in global marine fisheries. Of this total 30 000 seabirds are killed in Namibian waters, with 22 000 caught in the hake longline fishery and 8 000 in the trawl fishery. Seabirds are hooked and drowned on baited longline hooks or killed in collisions with warp cables on trawl vessels. Namibia is therefore one of the most significant countries for seabird bycatch on a global scale which highlights the important role that the Namibian Albatross Task Force team has to play in the conservation of albatrosses and petrels.
One of the simple, cost-effective measures that can be implemented to prevent incidental seabird mortality is the use of bird-scaring lines also called tori lines. These simple but highly effective devices are flown behind vessels over the area where the birds are most likely to dive for the bait and become hooked (longline vessels) or alongside the cables that hold the net in the water (trawl vessels). These bird-scaring lines are used in fisheries worldwide. The ATF in Namibia has demonstrated that seabird bycatch can be practically eliminated on trawl vessels if two tori lines are flown simultaneously, and reduced by 98% on longline vessels.
In 2014, Meme Itumbapo was identified by Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) to assist the seabird conservation project in building mitigation measures.
Meme Itumbapo’s motto is: “let us not rely on men as the sole providers of the household; we women should stand up for ourselves.”
Selma Nakale (41) is the founder and manager of the Meme Itumbapo Women’s Group. Selma moved to Walvis Bay in 2002, in pursuit of job opportunities. Here she began the woman’s group along with four other middle-aged women. The woman’s business involves making jewellery from raw materials like seas shells, beads ostrich eggs, and traditional material. Sales are relatively slow and there is no lucrative market for their products. This makes supporting their families very difficult since there is no reliable stream of income.
Selma is also the caretaker of Bird’s Paradise, a freshwater wetland and tourism business, located on the eastern periphery of Walvis Bay along the main road to the airport. The women facilitate guided tours into the wetlands with students and tourists where they spend a couple of hours identifying different coastal bird species.
Some other challenges experienced by the women include unpredictable weather patterns in Walvis Bay, which hinder their working progress. The women do not have any transport means and have to foot (+/- 5-6km) to and from work daily. Lines are built outdoors at the centre as there is no veranda or less exposed area to work in. Another challenge involves a few fishing companies that have started building their own tori lines. This forces the woman to compete with the industry which should not be the case as it should be the industries’ social responsibility to support the women.
There has been an improvement in the women’s living since the start of the tori line project. They are now able to pay their children’s school fees, buy food and from the money they have also started investing in building houses.
According to Selma, it was a great pleasure for her to be introduced to this new project in conservation because not only did the project help them improve on their crafting skills, but it also contributed to their general knowledge around conservation and the seabirds in particular.
In Selma’s words she expresses: “We are very thankful to NNF for supporting us women, and this particularly in the spirit of woman empowerment. This motivates our womanly purpose especially to find that we do not have any men in our group. We see great potential for this project and hope that it will continue to improve and add on to our existing skills and activities.”