Guest blog – Sem Shikongo, Director of Tourism

semWhat is so significant about the fact that 42% of Namibia’s land is under conservation management?  
This shows real commitment to conservation, management and sustainable utilization of natural resources as per the Namibian constitution. It is pushing boundaries and standing out amongst the rest.  It is important to recognise that all natural resource based production systems depend on the functioning of the ecosystems for their performance, including the fisheries, agriculture and forestry sectors, which are all key pillars of Namibia's economy therefore, seen in this light, 42% becomes very significant indeed.

What does this mean to conservation?  
This is a real a plus to conservation, it shows adaptive management, it shows co-management and it shows the commitment and passion of the Namibian people towards their environment and their land. It means working towards achieving and maintaining that balance between conservation and sustainable use and making sure that the environment and nature is respected, managed and sustainably utilized.  Conservation is not only the responsibility of government but of all Namibians and this has been demonstrated as that 42% is managed by a variety of stakeholders all in the interest of long term sustainability.

How has conservation impacted local communities?  
As a country we have gained worldwide reputation for our innovative approach of linking conservation to poverty alleviation through our communal area conservancy program and pro-poor tourism initiatives. This is founded on the dynamic policy adjustment that devolved rights of wildlife and tourism to many of Namibia's most marginalised and poorest communities. These rights have provided local communities with unprecedented incentives to manage and conserve their areas and wildlife, which have resulted in mass recoveries of wildlife populations outside national parks and reduced poaching throughout Namibia.

describe the imageDoes 42% make a difference to tourist experience?  
The 42 % land under some form of conservation management has unlocked enormous tourism development opportunities especially in communal lands, and this has definitely increased the tourist experience. Culture and human interaction at a personal level has increased, amazing adventures have been unlocked.  This 42 % of land combines wildlife, unique landscapes all set within majestic and unspoiled wilderness and together it is making Namibia potentially one of the most competitive tourism destinations in the world!

What next?  Will we be able to say 45% or 48% of Namibian is under conservation management in the coming years or is there a danger that it could slip backwards?  
All indications are that there is no return, there is always something new out of Namibia and perhaps new innovation based on the best practice generated since Independence may indeed lead to us seeing this number increases.

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