The ongoing UNDP supported, GEF financed project “Namibia Protected Landscape Conservation Areas Initiative (NAM-PLACE)” establishes partnerships between national parks and private landholders, communal conservancies, and forests adjacent to the parks in an innovative approach to landscape-level habitat protection. These partnerships allow for the removal of fences, which increases territory accessible by wildlife and decreases pressure on the park habitats. By opening up the areas adjacent to the national parks, the project has brought an additional 35,049 km2 under collaborative management protection. Lifting the barriers to establishing a large-scale network of protected landscapes and to establishing wildlife corridors enhances landscape-level protection while decreasing species loss and habitat degradation. The project has three main elements: first, the development of a framework for the formalization of existing protected landscape collaborative management arrangements, as well as the creation of national-level best practice guidelines for establishing Landscape Conservation Areas (LCAs); second, the development of strategic plans for each LCA as well as management and work plans for each individual landholding that is part of a LCA; and third, the development of the economic sustainability aspect of LCA management.
Namibia is a highly bio-diverse country, with remarkable ecosystems variety ranging from hyper-arid deserts to subtropical wetlands and savannas. The country is home to 4,000 plant species, 658 recorded bird species (30% of which are migratory), and 217 endemic mammals including unique varieties of desert-adapted rhino and elephant. Namibia has an extensive protected area network encompassing 20 protected areas (PAs) and comprising 33,341 km2 or 18% of the country’s land territory. Despite the impressive size of the PA estate, however, biodiversity continues to be lost. Threats include the impacts of tourism, invasive alien species, fire, mining, plant harvesting, and each is predicted to intensify as the impacts of climate change worsen. Some PAs are either too small to protect wildlife, or are not viable because they are surrounded by fences that curtail wildlife movements to adjacent areas which were historically important dry season refuges. As a result wildlife numbers are lower than they would otherwise be, or are kept artificially inflated in PAs through the maintenance of water points but at the risk of over-stocking and habitat degradation. Incompatible land uses in private or communal landholdings adjacent to existing PAs compound the problem by limiting the range of migratory animals.
- Co-management/participatory approach: Collaborative LCA governance arrangements with representation from the state, community, and private sectors supported the goal of better achieving better conservation and sustainable livelihoods through participatory decision-making.
- Dissemination of lessons learned between LCAs: Lessons learned at each landscape scale were widely disseminated across each landscape through a national coordination unit and up to the national level for strategic planning work. This assisted with the scaling up of the approaches used throughout protected landscapes in Namibia and contributed to the development of a national system of LCAs.
- Committees composed of diverse stakeholders and representatives have different interests and development needs, which can hinder decision-making: The Landscape Management Committees are comprised of diverse stakeholders, including members of communal conservancies and commercial landowners. The varying development needs of the stakeholder groups resulted in varying expectations from the project. This led to concerns over committee composition and representation in some cases, and a lack of trust by some committee members that the elected committee chairperson did not equally represent all committee members.
- Stakeholder participation in project is influenced by changes in land ownership and land use: Although previous owners of farms bordering the parks had expressed high interest in the project, some new owners did not. Close proximity of some LCA sites to cities resulted in high demand for real estate development. The continuous ownership and land use changes influenced other participating members to withdraw. Raising awareness of the benefits of participating in the project and tangible results can persuade stakeholders to continue participation in conservation scheme; demonstration of benefits of landscape membership resulted in re-joining of some members who had previously withdrawn.
- 5 LCAs established to improve biodiversity conservation at landscape level: partnership agreements and approved constitutions are in place for all 5 LCAs, and an additional 35,049 km2 are now under collaborative management with protected areas.
- Park and LCA infrastructure improvements to enhance fire management, wildlife security, and tourist activities.
- Approval of the National Policy on Protected Areas, Neighbours and Resident Communities, the first legislative framework in the country that recognizes the formation and promotion of Landscape Conservation Areas. Guidelines for policy implementation are being developed.
- Approval and implementation of the Framework and Guidelines for Developing Management Plans for Parks in Namibia.
- All parks within the LCAs have management plans in place, and have resolved to incorporate LCA strategic and management plans into park strategic management plans.
- Supply chain development and promotion; new tourism routes and hiking trails developed in the Mudumu Landscape and the Windhoek Green Belt, as per Strategic Environmental Assessments of the Tourism Sector recommendations.
- Prohibition of dumping of any and all waste in protected areas; establishment of Waste Management in Protected Areas Task Team. Various improved waste management strategies implemented, including waste sorting and recycling. Set example for waste-free National Park.