himba womenUamunikaije Tjivinda squatted in the sand and threw a few strips of dried giraffe meat into a pot of boiling water. Like many Himba women in the arid, north-western part of Namibia called Kaokoland, she wore sandals, a goat skin skirt and little else. Her skin and long,plaited hair were a striking rust-red, rubbed with ocher dug from the earth. From nearby hills, other women with young children converged, standing quietly around Tjivinda’s domed hut, their eyes downcast. Remy Scalza and his wife, tourists to Namibia unpacked gifts brought on the advice of their guide – corn-meal, tea, sugar and other supplies hard to find here. Though no longer a novelty for these women, these sorts of encounters with tourists are still new enough to be awkward. Only when the food came out did they smile and start to talk. “The conservancy has been good for us,” Tjivinda said in the local Otjihimba dialect, which our guide translated. “Wildlife are cared for like our own livestock, and money from tourism goes into our conservancy bank account.” Goats wandered by as the women sat down to braid hair. For nearly two decades, Namibia residents, has been part of an ambitious experiment in both community tourism and wildlife conservation, known as communal conservancies. “The idea was to fight poaching by restoring control over wildlife to the local people,” said John Kasaona, the director of Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, the primary NGO behind the initiative. In 1996, groundwork laid by the organisation paved the way for new laws giving tribal communities – who previously had limited rights to resources on communal lands – the ability to form conservancies and self-manage their wild-life. “We wanted to show them that they could benefit financially from keeping these animals alive, in particular from wildlife tourism,” said Kasaona, who would spend years canvassing the coun-tryside, explaining the model village by village. “Try convincing people who were made these same promises years ago by a colonial regime and then robbed of their land,” he said. “At first, no one trusted us.” In the years since, the plan has been a resounding – and rare – success story for African wildlife. Seventy-nine conservancies now cover a full 20% of Namibia. Populations of desert lions, de-sert elephants and black rhinos, all threatened with extinction in the early ’90s, have increased several times over, while poaching has plummeted.(One rhino was poached in Namibia last year, compared with 668 in neighboring South Africa.) Meanwhile, conservancies throughout the country have teamed up with international tourism operators, giving ordinary travelers unprecedented access to both animals and local culture. …

From : Thelivingstoneweekly By : Jill Staden