Anabeb Conservancy, view from Ongongo
As part of our work with the North-West Lion Working Group, we spent the past week in the Anabeb Conservancy interviewing farmers and speaking to people about the difficulties they are having with carnivores, in particular lions. (See posts below for further details.) A preliminary analysis of the surveys indicates that farmers in Anabeb have struggled during the recent drought, and that difficulties with predators are exacerbating these problems. On average, farmers in Anabeb report losing between 85-93% of their cattle, 72-74% of their sheep, and 50% of their goats since the beginning of the drought. While direct effects of drought make up the majority of livestock losses, Anabeb farmers report that predators have been responsible for 20% of dead cattle, 29% of dead sheep, and 21% of dead goats. Finally, it was reported that lions alone have accounted for 13% of dead cattle, <1% of dead sheep, and 2% of dead goats. The reported losses in dollar amounts (US) are an average of $13,000 in cattle, $2,100 in sheep, and $10,000 in goats during the drought.
Kathehombua Tjahira and family.
In a region where 39% of the population lives on less than one US dollar/day this can be a huge blow for entire families. Nevertheless, a vast majority of respondents (85%) indicated it is important that Anabeb continue to have lions. “People living in towns should know about and be able to see lions” said Khowareb resident Julia Kasaona. Many in Anabeb indicated that it was important that their children be able to live in a world with lions. Even in the face of great struggle it appears that community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) is alive and well in Anabeb. An encouraging sign.
Today we visited a handful of farms in the village of Khowareb, in the Anabeb Conservancy. As the primary Damara settlement in Anabeb, the people of Khowareb generally noted that, while lions are an important part of the conservancy, and are infrequently seen in the village, they remain a danger to livestock and people. “Lions are bringing money to the conservancy” said Mr. Kandukozongombo Mombura. However, “[they] are aggressive… be careful when approaching them.” “Lions are important for tourism… If you see one… inform the conservancy” suggested Herman Ganuseb. “Lions are good, if they are not causing any trouble” said Mrs. Hans Ganuseb.
We thank the people of Khowareb for speaking with us and taking the time to discuss this sensitive and difficult subject.
Located at the T-junction from Opuwo, leading to Warmquelle on the left and Sesfontein on the right, the residents of Anabeb Farm have an interesting vantage on Kunene as a crossroads between well-worn ways of life and the demands of an ever-hastening world. Tourism in Kunene, and indeed across Namibia, has been increasing in recent years and in 2015 represented more than 3% of the country’s GDP.* Tourists have become a common site along the main roads in Kunene, bringing income and a growing foreign influence to the region. While the communal conservancies help local residents receive direct and indirect benefits from tourism this increase is not without costs to farmers. Highly sought-after wildlife, such as elephants, leopard, and lions, can be difficult for farmers to live with on a day-to-day basis. As Harold Ganuseb, a Damara farmer residing at Anabeb Farm noted, “Lions do not follow rain; lions follow their stomachs.” As the recent drought has taken its toll this has often meant that lions follow their stomachs to farms like Mr. Ganuseb’s. The demands of living in Kunene and the desires of the outside world are often on-display as Kunene’s residents navigate a shared world of people and animals.
* Source: World Travel and Tourism Council, Economic Impact 2015 – Namibia
Many in Anabeb view the Otjizeka area as a gateway for lions into the conservancy. With separate prides moving freely from the Etendeka Concession, and another having recently taken-up residence, it is little surprise that the Himba farmers there are on their guard. “Due to the increase in predators we have to look after our stock each and every day,” remarked Wathora Tjiwuiua. “Lions are closer to farms [than in the past],” he added.
Mr. Tjiwuiua oversees a large household with children attending the nearby Otjizeka primary school and is reasonably concerned. He recommended that the conservancies be empowered to employ local people to monitor the lions and inform farmers of their movements. This is one of the central recommendations of the Human-Lion Conflict Management Plan for North-West Namibia.
Mr. Jonathan Awiseb
This morning we visited Mbokondja and three of the farmers there. Near the border with the Palmwag Concession, the Mbokondja area has become somewhat synonymous with predator problems over the past few years. (In August we chatted with Seven Tjiraso, who had recently taken his livestock away from Mbokondja due to problems with predators.) Such problems follow a drought that has greatly diminished area farmers’ livestock. Preliminary analysis from our surveys in Anabeb Conservancy indicate that farmers report losing, on average, between 85-93% of their cattle, 72-74% of their sheep, and 50% of their goats since the beginning of the drought.
At Mbokondja farmers remain resilient, “during drought,” Ludwig Ganuseb said, “you will lose livestock.” The recent drought in Kunene has been difficult, but with the conservancy providing benefits – primarily through the distribution of meat and small amounts of cash, farmers are looking forward to the return of the rains.
Today we visited with Sara Karujira and her family on A-Land farm, just east of Warmquelle, in the Anabeb Conservancy. Ms. Karujira spoke at length about the benefits of living in the conservancy as well as the residents’ commitment to looking after their livestock. Livestock, Ms. Karujira noted, are important for her family to afford school and the occasional clinic fees. But looking after livestock isn’t easy – with little available cash it is not always possible to pay herders to monitor livestock. “Maybe due to drought, [lions] are coming closer [to people] …They are now living with people.” Nevertheless, Ms. Karujira noted that it is important to have lions in the conservancy, now and into the future. “There must be lions [in the conservancy.]” But, without management, lions can be a problem.
Thanks to Ms. Karujira and her family for speaking with us.
Over the past week, a delegation from the North West Lion Working Group (NWLWG) met with the committees of Omatendeka, Ehirovipuka, and Torra conservancies. For us it was good to get outside of our focal conservancies (Anabeb, Puros, and Sesfontein) and learn more about the difficulties other areas are having with carnivores. In addition to providing feedback from the Human-Lion Conflict Management Plan for North West Namibia the NWLWG began a survey of all the farms and homesteads in the six conservancies. This means GPS-ing farm and homestead locations and getting a basic record of the number of livestock and their movements. The goal is to have a comprehensive map for the northwest of where livestock are moving. This will enable more informed zonation and management decisions going forward and allow the NWLWG to anticipate likely ‘hotspots’ of conflict between people and lions. It was particularly useful to have Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) scientist Mr. U. Muzuma show us around the area. Mr. Muzuma is the MET large carnivore researcher and himself a cattle farmer living in Ehirovipuka. Mr. Muzuma provided invaluable information about the region and a very studied perspective on ways to positively address human-wildlife conflict across Kunene.
Examining reinforced kraals.
This past week we joined the North West Lion working group for a series of feedback meetings in the Anabeb, Puros, and Sesfontein conservancies. Over the past months the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has developed a Human-Lion Conflict Management Plan for North West Namibia, which is intended to move the region forward on finding solutions to helping lions and farmers co-exist. Chief among the recommendations of the report is the creation of Rapid Response Teams to deal with human-lion conflict when it occurs. Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), a partner of this project, has recently hired Cliff Tjikundi to head the Region’s conflict response. IRDNC and Ministry officials came together to provide the conservancies with feedback and elicit further concerns. Each of the communities contributed valuable insight into ways forward in dealing with this pressing issue. Thanks to the Anabeb, Puros, and Sesfontein conservancies for generously hosting us.
On Thursday, 5 October, a fire started behind the Wereldsend workshop. Sparks from an angle-grinder set the dead, but standing sedge alight. Because of the extended drought that has been hammering Kunene for the past few years, the sedge and trees surrounding it quickly ignited. In a matter of minutes IRDNC’s old office and a storage building were engulfed. Only the quick thinking and action of the staff on-site saved Garth Owen-Smith and Margie Jacobsohn’s house from also being destroyed. Most importantly, no injuries were sustained.
The old IRDNC office did contain many of Owen-Smith’s and Jacobsohn’s old field reports, publications, and notes from more than thirty years of working in Kunene. In this way the Wereldsend fire was something of a tragedy. Quite a bit of the Region’s conservation history was blown away as ash. It is worth reflecting on all the parts that came to be aligned for these documents, buildings, and, in a way, this history to be destroyed. The environmental factors are not limited to the drought; Wereldsend Base Camp is so situated because it was a farm turned over to the Nature Conservation authorities by the South African apartheid government. Had the Region not been under-developed during apartheid, there may never have been the need for a research camp. The Region, due to its remoteness and lack of development, necessitates a fully functioning research camp, complete with workshop for vehicle and infrastructure maintenance. Wereldsend is an important place to conservation in Kunene: its remoteness is at times an asset and a liability. As a space where important conservation work is taking place it is also a place where history is enacted, written, and sometimes, stored. In the fire we remember that the historical record is influenced not just through primary and secondary sources available, but also in regards to what is no longer accessible. Unfortunately some of our knowledge of Kunene conservation and history disappeared in the fire.
Because of the Region’s size and the challenge of working at the nexus of conservation and development, IRDNC operates on something of a shoe-string budget. The good news is that conservationists, local authorities, and tour operators (among many others) in the Region work together to ensure each other’s progress. Without the help of the Bergsig Police, Torra Conservancy, and the Palmwag Lodge in controlling the fire, it could have easily reignited and spread.
Desmond Karajiva, Marcus Tjieraso, and their family at Otjetoveni Farm
Over the past three days we met with a variety of farmers and families in the Anabeb Conservancy along the main road from Warmquelle and Khowareb to the Palmwag Concession. Spending time at farms and engaging local farmers in oral history interviews and semi-structured surveys makes up the majority of our research. By meeting people on their home-ground we can better appreciate the challenges that farmers in Kunene are facing when it comes to carnivores, in particular from lions. Thanks to Desmond Karajiva, Marcus Tjieraso, Karutjoveni Tjoveni, Seven Tjiraso, and Botes and Julia Kasaona for discussing their perspectives on a wide-range of issues facing farmers in Anabeb, in particular their willingness to discuss, in-depth, challenges from carnivores and possible productive ways forward. Thanks also to the Anabeb Conservancy Committee – a much-valued partner in our project.
Botes and Julia Kasaona