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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
Namibia is a pioneer of nationally recognized, legally secured, community-led conservation. To ensure that those successes can expand in scale and impact, WWF and our partners are pursuing two initiatives united by a shared vision for a sustainable future.
Pastoral communities and wildlife—including desert elephants, black rhinos, lions, giraffes, Hartmann’s mountain zebras, oryx, springboks, kudus, and ostriches—have always roamed across the vast landscapes of Namibia’s arid northwest, searching for life-sustaining springs and pastures.
But the legacy of colonial and apartheid land-use policies has made it harder for animals and people to follow historic seasonal routes. And this loss of connected, safe movement corridors has had devastating consequences. Combined with the extended droughts climate change has wrought and the increasing development in wildlife-rich areas, people and animals are in ever-closer contact. And conflict between people and wildlife is on the rise.
Forging better connections between Namibia’s large intact habitats—whether they’ve been secured via traditional protected areas or other forms of area-based land management—remains an urgent need. Only extensive, thoughtfully located conservation will help manage this conflict while allowing people and animals to revive their cyclical land-use patterns, which can be especially important during droughts.
Visionary initiatives to connect Namibia’s Skeleton Coast and Etosha National Parks, including core wildlife areas like the proposed Ombonde People’s Park, will increase conservation-related benefits for people and wildlife, and expand the impact of Namibia’s equitable model of conservation.
Driven by the aspirations of the Namibians who have cared for the land for generations, these initiatives will help conservancies pursue their own socioeconomic goals while coordinating shared responses to climate change, invasive species, and poaching.
The vision, writ large, looks like this: Build on existing connections within the landscape, promote responsible resource use, and protect some of the most important corridors for wildlife—including the areas connecting key pockets of intact habitat for lions, rhinos, and elephants, as well as the spectacularly long migration routes of mountain zebras and oryx. Together, these landscape-scale protections will both offer people economic opportunities and help protect the wildlife that makes Namibia’s northwest such an iconic place.
For almost three decades, Namibians have bound conservation to people’s well-being, and since the 1990s have put 45% of the country under some form of conservation management. Nearly half of that land falls under communal conservancies. And funding the protection and management of these areas is a massive challenge.
“We always had this big dream for community conservation in Namibia, but we never knew how to sustain it financially—until we started looking at project finance for permanence,” says Patricia Skyer. She began working in community-based natural resource management in Namibia in 1996 and is now WWF-Namibia’s project finance for permanence (PFP) program director.
PFPs bind conservation-focused policy changes and funding together in a single agreement. To do this, future costs are modeled, shared commitments are negotiated and recorded, and financial pledges are managed transparently according to legally binding rules.
The inclusive and holistic approach helps minimize conflicts of interest, the risk of shifting agendas, and the short-term funding cycles that can derail large-scale and long-term conservation.
As with all PFPs, “Namibia for Life” is based in Namibians’ self-identified conservation needs and priorities and will build on the country’s many successes—in this case, long-term support to Namibia’s 86 communal conservancies. Still under development, Namibia for Life is intended to bolster the financial security of the conservancies by expanding community tourism and other nature-based opportunities, and by fostering peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife. It will also support new conservancies, as they are created and where appropriate, and vastly increase the resources available to support this people-forward, locally driven approach.
“Wildlife in Namibia is thriving not only because others say animals are important but because the people of Namibia value them,” Skyer says. “It’s important to me that the world understand what rural communities with wildlife are willing to sacrifice, not just to benefit themselves, but for all of us.”