September 4, 2008

Namibian Leader Comments on Challenges in Conserving Biodiversity

Text of report by Namibian news agency Nampa website

[Unidentified Reporter: "Pohamba Opens LCA Meeting"]

President Hifikepunye Pohamba on Thursday officially opened the 2008 Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) meeting at a local hotel in the capital.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba speaks during the presidential breakfast of the Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) meeting (Nampa, 4 September)

Addressing delegates from 26 African countries as well as China, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States of America (USA) during a breakfast meeting, Pohamba noted that Namibia has made a significant investment through the Protected Area Network (PAN), which currently covers over 14 per cent of the country's land surface area.

Although the main aim of the protected area system is the conservation of biodiversity, protected areas have the potential to become engines for economic growth and to create employment opportunities for the people.

"Although many successes have been achieved in conserving biodiversity, there are still challenges and opportunities to be addressed. In this regard, proper marketing of our tourism and wildlife producers is of the greatest importance," he said.

The President further stated that the development of protected areas into economic engines that can contribute to the alleviation of poverty, remains a priority.

Pohamba noted that the country's elephant population has virtually quadrupled over the last 20 years to nearly 20 000, as well as black rhinoceros, which now total about 1 000.

"Namibia was able to achieve this by introducing enabling policies and a legal framework that restored user rights over wildlife and natural resources, and by harnessing the economic value of wildlife as an incentive for conservation," he said.

Cabinet approved the Policy on Wildlife Management, Utilization and Tourism as well as a Policy on the establishment of conservancies in 1995.

Through this legislation, communities that form conservancies gain management rights over wildlife and tourism; use management rights to develop economic opportunities such as eco-tourism, hunting and providing employment; and at the same time, the income generated by conservancies provides an incentive for the continued wise management of wildlife and other natural resources.

Added Pohamba: "The Community-based Natural Resource Management Programme which Namibia has implemented, is now widely regarded as an innovative and successful people-oriented approach to conservation. We have become recognized as a leader in this field. We have restored the link between conservation and rural development by enabling communal area farmers to derive a direct income from the sustainable use of wildlife and tourism activities."

The three-day LCA meeting will continue in the Etosha National Park at the Okaukuejo Resort as from today.

The gathering is a united conservation effort and cost-effective drive to address generic problems in Africa by pulling the conservation focus and efforts in an agreed visionary direction in partnership with business.

Members of the LCA are Namibia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Senegal, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and South Africa.

The meeting ends Sunday.

Originally published by Nampa news agency website, Windhoek, in English 4 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Africa. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.