17 May 2009
15 May 2009
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the Polytechnic students failed the exercise--based on their marks. It's not easy to shoot over 50% of the total marks possible. But, I'm guessing the benefits they receive from the experience will more than make up for the failing grade.
POSTSCRIPT: not directly related to the story, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a student wearing a pale green NEBRASKA t-shirt during the shooting. No idea whe
12 May 2009
10 May 2009
Namibia has a different model--wildlife can be purchased and sold. Game farms can build fences around their property. Wildlife has been given value, which can be good for conservation. And, it can also lead to some interesting side-effects. Public access is one of those interesting side-effects. I'll blog more later about Namibia's model of wildlife ownership.
Namibia is fighting several battles as it struggles to manage its natural resources. I've commented earlier than on HUGE factor is a limited pool of people with appropriate skills and training to make informed management decisions. Namibia ranks 122 out of 125 countries in the world in availability of scientists. That problem is spelled out in this speech by the Minister of Ag, Water, and Rural Development in 2004.
Another problem for Namibia, I believe, is that the common citizen does not have access to natural resources. The speech above outlines the problems with land access by the native citizens, which is a controversial topic at the moment in many southern African countries--as governments try to sort out land access, which has been affected by 100-200 years of colonialism. Of course, the current white occupants of most of the prime land did not directly take land from the native people, but it's a very hard topic to sort out.
What I am interested in is hunting access. I'm interested in it, because it is the most ironic comparison a person can make in Namibia. Namibia is known for its sport hunting opportunities. Just google "Namibia hunting" and you will find page after page of opportunities to fly to Namibia and try your hand at hunting. Hunting is a windfall for selected people in the country, as ecotourism is one of the top industries (although upwards of 40% of Namibia's GNP comes from diamonds--hard to compete with that). So, there is hunting in Namibia. But, only if you are fairly rich or if you know a game farm owner.
The fact is that Joe Namibian cannot wake up on a Saturday during hunting season and take his daughter out hunting on a public wildlife management area. Because there are no public hunting areas. There are National Parks, but they do not allow hunting. The only hunting access in Namibia is on private farms. Surely, I'm thinking, this has to impact how the average Namibian thinks about conservation.
My belief is that if the public does not benefit from natural resources, they won't care about them. Which means they may not vote to support tax dollars for conservation, or they may not feel like poaching or other illegal uses of natural resources are bad ideas. Now, if you own a game farm, or if you live on a communal conservancy, you can potentially benefit from ecotourism dollars. If you are a professional hunter or a taxidermy shop owner, you can also benefit. But, the average Namibian is not a game farm owner or a professional hunter.
A quick comparison may help illuminate the situation. It always helps me to take something I'm very familiar with, so let's make a comparison of Nebraskan and Namibian professors of natural resources. We'll start with 'average starting salaries' in each location: University of Nebraska normally hires new professors around the US$60,000 level, while Namibian starting salaries for their faculty are about N$200,000 (equates to about US$24,000 at current exchange rates). So, before we even start with other factors, prices in Namibia are about 3 times more expensive for Namibians than for a person from the US in Namibia. It's something the Powell's often think about when we are in the grocery store.
So, now let's assume that neither professor in our example knows someone who owns a game farm, and they want to go hunting. We'll plan a 5-day hunting trip. Prices vary, but it would not be unrealistic to assume US$2,500 for a 5-day hunting trip, which would include lodging, meals, and the fees for a professional hunter to help you find and kill a kudu and a warthog. For the Nebraskan, that is about 4% of his/her annual salary. Even if you double it to include the price of the airplane ticket, it's 8% of their salary, which is still less than 10% that the Namibia pays of their salary.
Now, the Namibian had to pay 10% of their salary to hunt two animals in their own country. What if the Nebraskan decided to stay home and shoot two white-tailed deer--and we'll pretend that he/she decides to hunt locally (no motel needed). Total cost of permits needed: US$44. That's all that is needed to go hunting (besides a gun, ammo, and petrol). That's only 0.07% of the Nebraska professor's salary.
So, you say you aren't interested in hunting. You want to compare trips to a National Park. OK, both professors stay in their home country and take a trip to the premier National Park. The Nebraskan heads to Yellowstone National Park, where they pay US$25 per vehicle to enter and US$300 to stay in a cabin inside the park for 3 days: 0.5% of their annual salary. The Namibian heads to Etosha National Park, where they pay US$2 (the Nebraskan would have to pay US$16) to enter the park and US$300 for 3 nights in a lodge (Namibians do get a 25% reduction off the normal price): 1.3% of their annual salary. Again, it is almost triple the price for the Namibian to enjoy a trip to a National Park, and a significant part of their income.
Ecotourism in Namibia has been good for some people, and one can argue that Namibia's ecotourism emphasis has single-handedly helped many populations of wildlife species. But, ecotourism has also mis-directed (I would argue) the objectives of the Ministries responsible (and there are 4-5 of them...) for management. Namibia's constitution (Article 95) actually spells out who its natural resources are intended for. As you might expect, it is for Namibians, not Europeans and Americans:
"The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting, inter alia, policies aimed at...maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future."
But, the fact is that Namibia's natural resources are more available for Europeans and Americans than for Namibians. And, I would argue they are currently being managed for Europeans and Americans--Namibians certainly are not a high proportion of the hunters in Namibia. And, they are not a high proportion of the guest at the wonderful lodges that dot the country...a night at Grootberg Lodge in Damaraland for 3 people: US$230. 0.4% of the Nebraskan's annual salary; and almost 1% of the Namibian professor's annual salary. It is no wonder that I've heard many Namibians complain about ecotourism's effects on their natural resources. Public hunting areas do not exist, and tourist-type trips have become more expensive for Namibians, because lodges price their beds and activities for the Europeans and Americans who can afford to pay more. So, Namibians have access, but it'll cost them.
I am concerned about the long-term sustainability of this trend. In February, I attended a speech about a new National Park opening in Namibia: Sperrgebeit National Park, a 2.6 million hectare public area along the southwest coast. It used to be a diamond mining area (Sperrgebeit means "prohibited place," which it was when diamonds were laying on the surface of the ground). This park will open next year, but it will be restricted (ironic that it's opened, but still restricted...) to tours led by guides. The purpose of the guides is to make sure visitors do not destroy rare desert plants and cultural artifacts still located in the park. So, visitors will have to pay guide fees, which will be high because of European and American influence on ecotourism. As I left the meeting, with two Namibian professors in Nature Conservation, they commented that the prices for guides mean that "Namibians are still shut out" of that area. And, remember that Namibian professors are relatively well-off, compared to other Namibians.
Namibia will have to grapple with this issue...if Namibians cannot enjoy their natural resources, they will not support conservation in the future. It is also critical that Nebraskans (and you other states can play along, too) realize what public access means to conservation. It is something that I won't take for granted when I return!
09 May 2009
Our garden has been helped along by our 'constant gardener', Israel. Israel comes once a week, when his malaria doesn't kick back in, and tends our yard. He keeps area around the garden nice and neat, and we weed the garden. Israel really keeps the yard looking great. As he weeded our side yard (it's completely dirt, and had grown up with weeds during the rainy season, as we can't get the mower to that part of the yard), he found several volunteer tomato plants--maybe the Conroy's boys (last year's Fulbrighter at Polytechnic) had a tomato fight in our back yard last year? So, we've ended up with many more tomatoes than we can probably handle.
Orange tree (left) and lemon tree (right).
04 May 2009
Readers of NTN know that Kelly and I think the world of Tristan.
On our recent trip to the west coast of Namibia (we spent a 4-day weekend--Namibia sure knows how to plan and arrange holidays to maximize 4-day weekends--in Henties Bay, north of Swapokmund), Tristan showed his bravery by attempting to save a ship from beaching on the Skeleton Coast. Alas, Tristan's efforts were in vain, but his bravery was undaunted.
When Tristan wasn't trying out for the Coast Guard, we had a great time exploring this odd coast line--mostly uninhabited and almost completely deserted (and desert-ed...). Kelly remarked that no other coast line, that we know of, has escaped the onslaught of coastal houses and traffic. Here, the absence of drinking water keeps the coast isolated from human development. Just a few small towns dot the coast. Besides groups of South African men who were on holiday fishing along the coast, we had it to ourselves. We are fairly certain we were the only people staying in the De Duine motel in Henties Bay.
The Skeleton Coast is named for the large number of ship wrecks which have occurred here over the years. As we found, there are also a large number of cape fur seal skeletons littering the coast--mortalities from a 200,000-strong colony at Cape Cross.
We'll post photos on Picasa momentarily (archived here), with a description of the trip.