The importance of conserving environment the natural heritage for future generations while contributing to the improvement of the livelihoods of Namibians is a high calling for every citizen. To this end the Ministry of Environment and Tourism is doing it right and should be applauded although there is always room for improvement.
These words were echoed by the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta as he sheds light on the role and journey his Ministry has travelled 24 years ago.
According to Shifeta, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism was established in 1990 after independence but was first named the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism. The name was later shortened after to its current name seeing that wildlife falls under the environment.
The ministry consists of six different directorates that are tasked to carry out its vision, mandate and objectives.
“It [the ministry] has got a bigger functional responsibility topreserve natural environment and support tourism within the country, which are both very vital to the economy,” says Shifeta.
With reference to the Environmental Management Act of 2007, he stated that every state organ is responsible for contributing to the sustainable development of the environment.
The Directorate of Environmental Affairs
The Directorate of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has the responsibility to ensure the protection of the environment and safeguard the environmental resources of this country.This the DEA does by promoting sustainable development, protecting biological diversity and improving environmental awareness amongst many other functions.
The DEA also serves as the focal point to many of the environmental conventions that Namibia is party to, such as the United Nations Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification and the Basel Convention of Hazardous Waste.
The wide-ranging scope of its mandate requires that the DEA operates using a cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach. As such it is home to a variety of professions including economists, scientists, legal experts as well as development planners.
“Whatever activities that we undertake, all the organs of the State are required when they are engaged in activities that are listed according to our Act and regulation they are required to submit a strategic environment plan,” he adds.
However, he said this is a challenge as some of the organs of the state engage in listed activities and fail to submit these plans which in the long run lead to a lasting damage to the environment.
“The environment damage sometimes is not felt immediately, but as time goes on we are going to feel it and the generations to come will blame us,” warnsShifeta.
Shifeta singled out the disposal of toxic waste, which is not properly monitored, as a practical example of these hazardous activities. He said that there are no clear cut programmes within local authorities on how to dispose toxic waste such as oil. Thus the methodology used to dispose off this waste endangers the biodiversity.
“When garage owners’ disposes off oil they either dig a hole, put oil there, burn or cover it under ground. That is another form of pollution and is very toxic and damaging,” he cautions.
In an effort to alleviate this issue, the ministry has teamed up a private company which is involved in recycling of used oil to embark on a campaign to encourage recycling.
“We are going to have a campaign where car owners or garage owners can get discount when they bring back containers with the old oil when buying the new one to this company,” he says.
“The recruitment of environmental officers is the process we are currently taking. I can say we will be able to apply this within the next three years,” said Shifeta.
He added that the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF), which was established in 2001 is responsible for supporting activities geared towards sustainable environmental and natural resource management (Act N13 of 2001), While environmental levies has been introduced last year by the Ministry of Finance to tax on incandescent bulbs, tyres and Carbon emission tax on vehicles.
Directorate of Tourism and Gaming
Tourism and Gaming (DTG) is another directorate within the ministry that is mandated to develop the tourism industry in a sustainable and responsible manner to contribute significantly to the economic development of Namibia and the quality of life of all her people.
The DTG was re-structured in 2001 to become a more streamlined directorate focusing on the development of tourism policy and legislation, collection of basic tourism statistics and the regulation of the gambling industry.
“That directorate has the responsibility of promoting and developing policies on tourism it supports tourism and also collects statistical data on tourism and also makes sure that we assist all those who are playing role in the tourism industry,” stresses Shifeta.
He added that the Namibia Tourism Board falls under this directorate whose mandate is to promote and market Namibia as a tourism destination all over the world.
According to Shifeta Namibia has been put on the world map after successfully hosting the 11thConferenceof the Parties (COP 11) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD as well as the Adventure World Travel Summit last year.
“These two historic events changed the perception visitors had of our country, people appreciated how clean and beautiful Namibia is,” he says.
He believes this is the reason why Namibia earned a coveted 6th position out of 52 places in the world to visit in the Travel section of the New York Times Newspaper.
He also pointed out that last month (February) Wanderlust magazine travellers’ pole rated Namibia the top country to visit in the world and Skift.com a travel intelligence media company spoke highly of Namibia, that it is the best country to visit.
Shifeta added that under the DTG is the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) which provides service to the tourists.
Directorate of Regional, Services and Parks Management
Another directorate of the Ministry is the Directorate of Regional Services and Park Management (DRSPM) which promotes the conservation of natural resources and wildlife habitat in Namibia.
This directorate is responsible for keeping animals in protected areas, while making sure that the parks and wildlife are properly maintained and taken care of.
The Ministry has created a conservancy programme which is rooted from the policy called Community Based Natural Resource Management, that programme gave birth to 79 conservancies.
The strategy behind that is to let communities manage their own natural resources and benefit from it. According to Shifeta, 43.8% of Namibia’s total area is under protection a clear sign that the Ministry and the citizenry are working together. More importantly no other African country has achieved this position.
All along wildlife management was only allowed in commercial land and not in communal land, but the introduction of the conservancy has tilted the scales in favour of ordinary people and benefits have ripple effects.
“This conservancy programmes turned anything around that now communities regard this as theirs , there is no need to hunt and kill them anymore, but they now allow them to multiply so that you can also attract tourists and for trophy maintaining benefits,” he explains.
This success story is sending a sweet aroma and hence a number of African countries are getting interested in learning how Namibia has done it. Shifeta added that Namibia is the only country where one can find freely roaming lions and rhinos even in our desert, while in other countries these animals are either kept in zoos or protected parks. He also noted that Namibia has the largest amount of cheetahs in the world.
“We are fortunate to have this programme and it is very successful, we appreciate the community members who are very cooperative, and we encourage community members to come up with plans to establish conservancies where they can. The more conservancies we have, the more protected land we have,” he says.
The Directorate of Scientific Services
The Ministry also has a Directorate of Natural Resources Management (DNRM) as its name implies, the directorates is the scientific branch of the Ministry and as such strives to support the decision making process which underlies the fulfillment of the Ministry’s mission.
The directorate also maintains and rehabilitates essential ecological processes and life-support systems, while conserving biological diversity.
“It provides scientific services to this country with regards to our natural resources, especially wildlife. We have to provide data on our natural resources and to account how many species we have in our country,” he says.
According to Shifeta, the directorate has effective scientists and a laboratory in Okaukuejo.
The Directorate of Administration, Finance and Human Resources
The MET also has the Directorate of Administration, Finance and Human Resources (DAFHR) which is committed to supervise and coordinate the Ministry’s activities and main operations. PF