Tourism industry hardest hit – Shifeta

By Rosalia David

MINISTER of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has revealed that Namibia’s tourism industry was the sector hardest hit by the worldwide pandemic, with zero tourist arrivals in the country since the lockdown, and the situation is likely to persist throughout 2020.

Shifeta said this at the launch of the Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilient Facility in response to Covid-19 threat to long term sustainability and success of the community-based conservation programme recently.

“Tourism, which is the principal economic force in conservancies and pays for the conservation protection costs, is particularly hard hit with zero tourist arrivals in the country for the next three to four months.

“The predictions for lost income and massive job losses in this sector are particularly painful in rural areas, where the majority of the population ekes out a subsistence living through wildlife-tourism based enterprises, which has been seriously weakened by the recent six-year drought,” he noted.

Minister Shifeta further said that conservancy income from tourism operations amounted to approximately N$60 million per year, with an additional N$65 million paid in salaries to tourism staff living in conservancies but the jobs of 700 community game guards and rhino rangers, 300 conservancy support staff and 1175 local tourism staff are in jeopardy, adding that the 30-year effort to build Namibia’s communal conservancy programme is under severe threat.

He said in an effort to mitigate Covid-19 aftershocks, the ministry established the Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilient Facility. “This facility specifically aims to address the long-term impacts associated with Covid-19 on our conservation sustainability of the community-based natural resource management programme in Namibia. The Environmental Investment Fund will serve as the secretariat. The Fund has contributed N$6 million towards the facility.”

He went on to say that the Namibia Association for CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO) and the World Wildlife Fund had also attracted N$7.5 million, and the United Nations Development Programme in Namibia pledged N$1.5 million, while Nedbank pledged N$1 million to the cause.

The funds pledged bring the total basket of funding under the Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilient Facility to N$16 million.

“The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism is also in discussion with other strategic partners interested to address the negative impacts of Covid-19 on our sector. A task team consisting of a number of our partners has been established to guide the strategic areas to be addressed through this funding.”

He said for the past 30 years, Namibia’s communal conservancy programme worked with government to transform wildlife conservation into a viable land-use option for rural communities. Consequently, 86 conservancies today cover more than 166,179 square kilometres (20 percent of Namibia), encompasses approximately 222,000 community members (9 percent of Namibia’s population) and as a result the country has seen widespread recoveries of wildlife population.

“Underpinning the success of the communal conservancy programme is the simple but revolutionary idea of turning communities into wildlife protectors, thus creating a proud legacy of community game guards in Namibia and building a conservation-based economy. The Covid-19 pandemic is crippling the world’s economy, and Namibia is not spared,” Shifeta said.