Hunting is a controversial topic that has been making news for a while now, splitting opinion to those who are pro-hunting and those that are adamantly against it. Whatever your stance, hunting is proving a critical livelihood for rural Namibians in many parts of the country. 99FM’s MYD Earth travelled to the Zambezi region to speak to members of a community there who depend solely on hunting for their income. Those people are members of the Bamunu Conservancy.
The Bamunu Conservancy is found some 65 kilometres west of Katima Mulilo. The conservancy, which boasts abundant wildlife, borders the Mudumu and Nkasa Lupala national parks as well as Botswana in the south.
This conservancy derives 100% of its income from hunting quotas. Quotas that are derived through game counts done by both the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and game guards employed in the region to monitor and protect Namibian wildlife. Should hunting products be banned to certain countries and on certain airlines, as is happening, these 1600 people living in five villages in Bamunu will be without income.
Quotas on the number of animals allowed to be hunted are carefully monitored and once allocated, the conservancy will work together with a professional hunter to find a prospective hunter who will pay large sums to do the hunt. All the meat from the hunt in addition to the money paid by the hunter goes back to the community. In addition, only post-productive animals are ever hunted. This means, only older animals that are past reproductive age are hunted.
The vice-chairperson of the Namibian Professional Hunters Association (NAPHA), Danene van der Westhuizen, notes that “hunting has a bad reputation globally because of specific incidences of irresponsible hunting and a lack of information and facts about its benefits.”
Danene believes that by placing a high value on an animal (through trophy hunting), people become their natural custodians rather than their enemies. “Farmers often hunt for the purpose of obtaining meat, regardless of their age or sex. In contrast, with trophy hunting a specific animal is chosen, and all parts of it are used from its meat to its horns.” notes Danene, who goes on to explain that “NAPHA encourages hunters to target post-production animals. In other words, animals that are no longer able to reproduce, either because they are too old, or because they have been kicked out of their herd by stronger males.” According to Danene, “the logic of targeting these types of individuals is in the fact that they are naturally the weakest of the herd. In different times these animals would have been caught by predators. By hunting older animals, the younger ones have a chance to reproduce offspring and take part in the ecosystem.”
A recent press release from NACSO (which supports conservancy programmes in Namibia) notes that “The Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to actively campaign against any attempt to ban or restrict hunting and the export of wildlife products from Namibia.”
Through its Natural Resources Working Group, NACSO notes that “without hunting, conservation would be brought to a close in many communal conservancies which do not have tourism potential and which depend for their income on the hunting of selected animals for trophies. Conservancy income is used to pay game guards who conduct anti-poaching patrols and to provide benefits to conservancy members, thus uplifting living standards in poorer rural communities.”
An example of uplifting the living standards of poorer rural communities is found at Bamunu Conservancy, who have chosen to use all of the income they derive from their hunting quotas to uplift their community. All five villages have been electrified through the purchase of transformers, by the villagers using the money from hunting income. In addition, water holes have been built for the wildlife in the region. This is an example of working together to achieve the goal of the community-based natural resource management, which is to ensure rural Namibians gain rights over wildlife and tourism and as a result generate income from the sustainable use of wildlife.
Take a listen to the MYD Earth show with members of the Bamunu Conservancy to find out firsthand how hunting is benefitting communities, here :