Windhoek — The Deputy CEO of the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia, Dr Eline van der Linden, says it is wonderful to see MCA Namibia in action.
“No more proposals, no more paperwork. All administrative work is in order to get us to this point of implementation,” she said.
New Era recently spent 24 hours with teams from the Minis-try of Environment and Tourism, Save the Rhino Trust and MCA Namibia in the Kunene North, observing and photographing the capturing and translocation of three rhino.
The operation’s aim was to relocate some 15 rhino from Palmwag Concession to conser-vancies in the North-West.
“We put up a proposal in 2006 to the United States Government and it feels good to now see the Compact in action. One of the first tangible deliverables was the distribution of some 700 000 textbooks to close to a 1 000 schools in Namibia.
Van der Linden said the rhino airlifting operation looks like a large upfront investment when you see the helicopters, pilots, crates, a plane, people, trucks, all a very capital intensive operation.
“But when you rea-lise where these majestic rhino are going to be translocated to and the value they will add to the tourism product offered by the conservancies who will be receiving the rhino, it is actually not such a big investment. In fact, a very worthwhile investment,” she told New Era.
It is a major boost for tourism in the North-West and will attract tourists to these remote areas for rhino tracking.
“There is a red thread running through the MCA Namibia Tourism project. We would really like to see the conservancies and community-based tourism to enter into the mainstream of tourism activities in Namibia.”
The aim, Van der Linden said, is to encourage tourists off the beaten track into the more remote areas, to the rural-based conservancies.
“Yes, tourists should still go to Etosha, Swakopmund and Sossusvlei, the popular tourist triangle, but they should also try to venture into the north west and other conservancy areas in the north of the country.
The deputy CEO said MCA Namibia believes that restocking these areas with wildlife will add value to the tourism products the conservancies offer. Data shows that tourists obviously like Rhino tracking, and this can be used to lure tourists to Namibia.
“Once we have these animals including black-faced impalas (MCA Namibia is also supporting the Ministry of Environment and Tourism with the translocation of the black-faced impala) and other rare species, we will logically attract a different type of tourist visitor to the area and will add value to the product,” she explained.
The Tourism Project in the MCA Compact consists of three activities, all with a reference linking activities to improve conservancy-based and community-based tourism.
The first activity, Van der Linden said, focuses on the Etosha National Park (ENP).
The MCA Namibia is assisting the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to improve the management model at ENP, making closer linkages to the conservancies around the park so that communities there can benefit from the tourism product offered by ENP. This model will then inspire park management development in other national parks.
“MET will open the park to conservancies around the park through concessions that will allow conservancies to take their tourists who will be staying at lodges or tented camps in the conservancies into the park for game drives. These concessions will offer different tourism routes into parks and like the wildlife translocations, this will add value to the tourism product offered by the conservancies,” she said.
Another way in which MCA Namibia and MET will promote synergies between the park and the conservancies around it, will be by using the road maintenance equipment MCA Namibia will donate to MET (in August 2010) for jobs like fire breaks and tourism game drive tracks in those conservancies.
The second activity in the Tourism Project is in support of marketing – of generic marketing of Namibia as an attractive tourism destination to potential tourists around the world and more specific marketing of various domestic tourism routes, in Namibia and linking Namibia into regional tourism packages.
“We would like to see tourists going into the conservancy areas. MCA Namibia will provide grant funding to conservancies to enter into joint ventures for lodge accommodation and campsite facilities, but also other tourism value-added activities. The MCA will promote the packaging of these new and also existing facilities and activities in attractive tourism routes for tourists to access these conservancies.
She explained to New Era that the north-west is still a relatively unknown territory and not easily accessible with its vast distances, rough terrain and limited road sign-age and support for tourists travellers.
“We would like to make it a bit easier for tourists to also do self-drive tours in these areas.”
The third activity in the Tourism Project includes a suite of support for community-based tourism development. The rhino translocation, Van der Linden said, is one of them.
“We will support 31 conservancies throughout the north of Namibia – with capacity building, training, marketing, joint venture partnerships for lodges etc., wildlife translocations, human-wildlife conflict mitigation – building on to the earlier Life Project, but focusing more on the business aspects of tourism.
Van der Linden said treating tourism as a business is the key to the whole uplifting process.
“We want to make tourism work as a business, it should generate the funding that a business should generate, with the sustainable income so generated trickling down to the community.”
Van der Linden said lessons learned from the last 15 years in the Life Project and other CBT support initiatives can now be applied as best practices in the 31 targeted conservancies.
Coming up in the next month or two will be the launch of the MCA Namibia Conservancy Development Support Fund. Eline, as she prefers to be called, said the Rhino translocation or any other wildlife translocation is one of the activities that can be funded under this Grant Fund. The MCA Namibia target conservancies will be encouraged to apply for these grants.
“They can apply for marketing activities, for translocation, either using animals from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism or even buy wild animals from private wildlife auctions or farms. It also caters for joint- venture tourism lodges and other accommodation establishments in conservancies. The grant funding will assist the conservancies to strike a better deal with the private sector partner, increasing the benefits from the business venture to the conservancy and its members. Some human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures, such as additional water points or making a water point elephant-proof, shall also be managed under the Conservancy Development Support Fund.
Adding value is the important thing, Van der Linden, said.
“Like the Rhino translocation, it is a value-added activity. We would like to see more of these type of value- addition activities,” she told New Era.
She said MCA Namibia hopes the conservancies will be innovative and come up with good ideas because it is a demand-driven fund.
“We would like to see as much happening in the conservancies in terms of community-based tourism development in this part of Namibia.”
She was enjoying the helicopter ride, calling it a “fantastic experience”.
“Our main attraction at the moment in this part of the country is the wildlife and scenery. The whole rhino airlifting operation is being recorded and we hope it will be featured on local television.”
Van der Linden concluded by saying the translocation of wildlife, and the restocking of conservancies, is a long-term investment in biodiversity and in the long-term future of tourism.