Namibia Wins Best Destination Safari and Wildlife Award

PUBLISHED 13 MAR 2019   

The Pacific Areas Travel Writers Association (PATWA) awarded Namibia the Best Destination Safari and Wildlife award at an award ceremony held in Berlin, Germany earlier this month.

The award was presented at the world's largest tourism trade fair, the Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin (ITB), where Namibia's Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, accepted the prestigious award on the country's behalf. Shifeta, who also received the award for 'Tourism Minister of the Year — Emerging Destination', said "he was humbled and felt privileged for Namibia to have been recognised and honoured with this award".

"The awards to Namibia could not have come at a better time then now, when we are battling to control poaching of our rhinos and elephants," said Shifeta. "This will encourage us as the authority and our various stakeholders to do more to stop poaching of high value species."

According to Shifeta, this award is the result of the Namibian government recognizing from the onset of the nation's independence back in 1990 that the country's natural assets form the backbone of the tourism industry, and as such, ensuring that Namibia's environment and wildlife are protected by the Constitution. Shifeta also noted that Namibia strives to maintain its ecological biodiversity for the benefit of Namibia citizens as well as visitors from the rest of the world.

To achieve this, the Namibian government focuses on three pillars of conservation:

  1. Promoting conservation across borders of neighbouring states by forming Trans-frontier Conservation Areas that facilitate the free movement of wildlife across international boundaries through transboundary wildlife corridors. This also limits fragmentation of habitat, ensuring a larger expanse of natural areas are protected for the benefit of wildlife in southern Africa, while also protecting local cultural heritage and promoting the long-term sustainable utilization of natural resources within participating countries. Namibia participates in three Trans-frontier Conservation Areas: 1) Kavango Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area; 2) Iona Skeleton Coast Trans-fronteir Park; and 3) Ai /Ais- Richterveld Trans-frontier Park.
  2. Namibia also has an internationally recognized Community Based Natural Resources programme that promotes sustainable development initiatives that empower local communities and alleviate poverty, while also promoting conservation and co-existence with wildlife.Currently, there are 83 community-based conservancies throughout the country, where communities receive incentives to manage and protect the natural resources in their area for the benefit of wildlife, tourism, and ultimately also these local communities who benefit from cash income, employment opportunities, social upliftment projects and other benefits.
  3. Namibia's extended network of protected areas and national parks —there are 20 state owned protected areas that extend across17% of Namibia's land surface— provide significant economic opportunities through tourism.

"We pride ourselves as among the global leaders in conservation that we are offering you, all tourists of the world, not only a safe and incredible safari and wildlife experience, but we offer an opportunity to contribute to ecological preservation and biodiversity protection," Shifet remarked. 

As Namibian celebrates the award, Shifeta gives credit where credit is due, thanking the the men and women in the rural areas who coexist with wildlife, striving towards balanced use of their land while maintaining a healthy environment. This is not always easy for local communities whose livestock and/or crops are sometimes threatened by wildlife. Yet when wild animals pose a risk they need not be eradicated, but rather incorporated into other rural livelihood opportunities, Shifeta explained.

Community conservation areas extend across more than 163, 396 km² of the country's land surface, covering more than 50% of all communal land. Nearly 20% of land in Namibia is managed by conservancies, contributing over N$4 billion to the country's net national income, and supporting environmental restoration and wildlife recovery.

These conservation initiatives are certainly paying off. Not only is Namibia being recognised as a world class tourist destination, but the environment, wildlife and local communities are reaping the benefits too.