Despite community uproar over the planned establishment of a wildlife conservation park in the Kunene region, the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) together with Kunene Regional Communal Conservancy Association (KRCCA) have reiterated their stance on the implementation of the park.
According to the two organisations, the park, which will be known as Ombonde People’s Park (OPP), will be Namibia’s first large-scale voluntarily established protected area, aiming to maintain biodiversity while developing socio-economic opportunities for the area’s residents through tourism and the sustainable use of wildlife.
The park includes the Ehivoripuka and Omatendeka conservancies, which are the founding members alongside the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
The initiative recently came under fire from exasperated community members who suspect that the park will take up their grazing and ancestral lands while outrightly rejecting the establishment of the planned park.
The park will cover an area of approximately 114000 hectares.
Those in favour of the park, however, insist that tourism to these areas will directly benefit those communities that live near as these landscapes secure the protection of critical rhino, elephant, lion and other wildlife habitats.
KRCCA chairperson Gustav Tjiundukamba said only a few people are against the initiative, thus they will go ahead with the planned activities.
“While it is not the majority that is opposing the idea, the board is still busy with proper consultation and trying to hear from those who are opposing; the reasons why they oppose because currently the reasons we received are unsupported and donot have any merits to convince the board not to go ahead with the planned activities. We are continuing with it as planned but we are very much flexible to listen and to work on any positive ideas and advice,” Tjiundukamba said.
He further urged those against the planned park to come on board, noting that the park will benefit the community in terms of job creation.
“There is nothing hidden from the community to make noise rather than coming on board and starting with planned activities. As leaders we planned to bring benefits to the communities who are members of the two conservancies as we try to eradicate poverty through job creation, income generation, and conserving protected species in the area for future generations,” he said.
Tjiundukamba refuted claims that the establishment of the park will see large areas of communal land falling into the hands of foreigners.
“The area is on communal land and it is still protected by an act of parliament. The piece of land in question is still under the traditional authorities and will never be sold out under the table as was mentioned. We are all farmers and as per the management plan, which was crafted by ourselves, grazing land will not be a problem, and if any problem of scarcity prevailed there is provision and guidelines how to avoid it,” he said.
He said the initiative was from the community and hence the community is the custodian of the project.
IRDC documents indicate that the park will be established with the support of the British-based non-profit organisation Tusk Trust. The organisation was set up in 1990 to advance wildlife conservation across Africa.