To scale its conservation mission, the NamibRand Nature Reserve has embarked on a bold vision to double in size over the next 10-20 years. Although significant parcels of habitat have already been secured along the NamibRand borders over the years, a big mission beckons in the East where considerable tracts of habitat remain under commercial farming.
As land becomes available with farmers going into retirement and next generations not seeking to carry on the family tradition, or farms being sold for plain economic reasons, every farm in the NamibRand East zone should be secured for conservation, even if there is no immediate connectivity. Ultimately it will connect with NamibRand and form one cohesive unit.
The future ‘mega-reserve’ could also see ‘islands’ where farming still happens, as long as game can migrate around such ‘islands’. One use should not exclude the other; a happy ‘symbiosis’ of different land uses should be possible. As such, farmers in NamibRand East who want to continue farming should still be brought on board and made stakeholders and benefactors of NamibRand and conservation. When the rains return, domestic livestock can be sold to tourism ventures with the Desert Based Economy potentially providing a lucrative local market for conservation-minded farmers. After all, regenerative and conservation agriculture are concepts being explored and applied worldwide already. It’s time for all of us to adapt and think ‘out of the box’.
Acquiring farms spanning from the vast desert plains into the Tsaris escarpment would secure a very different and interesting habitat and landscape as well. Opportunities for diversified tourism offerings would underpin related investment potential: e.g. hiking trails (including "slack-packing"), old farmhouses converted into unique tourism retreats with heritage charm, horse trails, small camp or lodge developments, etc. The added diversity would facilitate longer visits, e.g. “Weeks at NamibRand”, staying in different places and having distinctly different experiences. Slow tourism comes to life...!
The driving force of NamibRand East is the NamibRand Conservation Trust (NRCT) and Wolwedans intends to put its shoulder to the wheel in support of the NRCT efforts by leveraging finance to acquire habitat that falls under the NamibRand East vision. The eventual result will be the creation of a vast, fence-free ecosphere spanning all the way from the Namib-Naukluft National Park into the eastern highlands of the Zaris Plateau.
For more information about the NamibRand East initiative, visit https://east.namibrand.org/.