Statement by Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah at the official launch of the Sperrgebiet National Park

06 Feb 2009

Director of ceremony,

Governor of Karas Region, Honourable Dawid Boois,

The Resident  Representative of the United  Nations  Development Programme, Mr. Simon R Nhongo,

Senior Vice President and Executive Director   of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Mr Jorgen Thomsen,

The Managing Director of Namdeb, Mrs Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi, Her Worship the Mayor of Lüderitz, Ms Emilia Amupewa, Respected Traditional Leaders,

Honourable Local Councillors,

Officials of Line Ministries and Projects, Representatives of Community-Based Organisations, Representatives of NGOs and Donors present here today, Members of the Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen, All protocol observed

Today, we are gathered to bear witness to an exciting chapter in the history of Namibia’s protected area network. In the past, our parks sought  to  fence  out  people and fence  in  our  wildlife and  natural resources. We now manage several of our parks collaboratively with our neighbours and partners including the communities around.

The road to proclaim Sperrgebiet area as a National Park was not short. The process has gone through three Minister namely; Hon. Malima, Hon. Konjore and myself, putting on the final pen.

I thank all of you who have contributed to this process, i.e. Regional Council, UNDP, Traditional Leaders, Namdeb, NGO’s and the Community at large.

The National Park in Sperrgebiet area was proclaimed in Government Gazette dated 1 December, 2008 (No 4174) as Sperrgebiet National Park. However, the National Heritage Council is tasked with the responsibility of finding an appropriate name for the park.

The vision for the Sperrgebiet National Park is:

“To  protect,  manage  and  sustainably  develop  the  Sperrgebiet National  Park  (SNP)  within  the  context  of  the  greater  Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, Namib and Coastal Ecosystems, to enhance conservation and socio-economic values for the region and nation and   to   place   primary   importance   on   the   globally   significant biodiversity and landscape values of the area”.

The Sperrgebiet National Park protects twenty six thousand square kilometres (26 000 km²) of Succulent Karoo and Namib Desert and Savannah   vegetation,   and   the   world   applauds   our   efforts   to safeguard one of two desert biodiversity hotspots. At the same time, our people can also rejoice in that this is another step towards realising the goals of NDP3 and Vision 2030. The utilisation of the National Park will have a significant impact in the economy of the region and to the wellbeing of  the communities around it and of course will contribute to the overall national economy for the benefit of all.

At the Centenary of Etosha National Park, His Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba spoke of a new generation of protected areas that would benefit biodiversity management. He stated that Parks had the potential to become an engine for regional and national economic development, and that is what this park is going to give.

Director of Ceremonies,

In 1999, the Sperrgebiet Land Use Plan was commissioned by an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee consisting of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME),  the  Ministry  of  Lands  and  Resettlement  (MLR)  and  the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR). This aimed to ensure the long-term sustainable economic and ecological potential in the Sperrgebiet. The work of the committee involved a significant amount of stakeholders’ consultation and meetings were held in Lüderitz, Keetmanshoop, Oranjemund and Windhoek.

The outcome of the committee work has emphasised that the area had long-term benefits for the whole of Namibia, and the southern regions  in  particular.  It  also  sought  to  improve  the  quality  and standard of living for the local population in and around the Sperrgebiet. It provided a guide for the decision-makers of Namibia and the Karas and Hardap regions to plan and implement sustainable development in the area.

Based on recommendations made by the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Sperrgebiet Land Use Plan, a Cabinet decision was taken in 2004 for the area to be proclaimed as a National Park.

Director of Ceremonies,

The launch of this Park has come at the most opportunity time. Last year  Namibia  was  ranked  as  among  the  top  10  fastest  growing tourism destinations in the world.

Sperrgebiet, being one of two world desert biodiversity hotspots, with unique succulent flora and breathtaking scenery, is expected in the long-term to attract local and international tourists, generating opportunities for   spin-off enterprises, job creation and income for neighbouring towns and communities, benefiting the Region and adding to the country’s tourism industry. The Sperrgebiet forms a part of the Greater Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) with South Africa  and  connects  the  TFCA  to  Angola  through  the  Namibian coastal parks, and that is an added value to the park.

The land use management of the park will be pro-poor, so much that the formerly disadvantaged people should have the share of the cake from the park. A Tourism Options Plan, which is a work in progress, has identified products that can be offered in different parts of the park.

Concessions will be granted in accordance with the National Policy on Tourism and Wildlife Concessions on State Land, and adjacent communities stand a good chance of receiving concessions in the park in accordance with the policy.

The surrounding towns of Lüderitz, Aus, Oranjemund, Rosh Pinah and even Keetmanshoop will act as gateways to the park. The park will contribute greatly to development in these centres, providing opportunities for entrepreneurship, business development and new jobs. Services such as fuel, water, food, supplies to lodges and other services  will  be  sourced  from  these  towns.  It  is  expected  that products  identified  in  the  Tourism  Options  study  will  encourage tourists to spend an extra day or two in one of the four towns, thus boosting local economies.

The utilisation of the park will be in line with governments BEE Policy, where up-coming entrepreneurs will have opportunities to develop their skills and enterprises to ensure that visitors to the park stay a few extra days at surrounding gateway centres, each of which has its own  charm  and  attractions.  I  believe  our  people  in  the  area  will ensure that visitors can sample the legendary hospitality of the South in particular and Namibia in general.

Director of Ceremonies,

The Park will be marketed as one of the world’s last remaining wilderness areas with its intriguing history and endemic vegetation. Attractions include the Bogenfels Arch, Roter Kamm impact crater, rare and endemic species such as unique succulent flora, the Orange River Ramsar Site with its variety of avian fauna, an array of ghost towns, mobile and fossilized dunes, spectacular natural fountains, inselbergs and desert plains, and its mining history.

But  MET  has  a  responsibility  to  ensure  that  tourism  and  other activities in the Sperrgebiet National Park are conducted in a highly responsible way to avoid any damage to the fragile environment of the area.

For this reason, following the example of other parks, a Park Management Plan for Sperrgebiet has been developed, with special efforts made to protect the fragility of the area. A highly consultative process with various stakeholders, will guide future operations within the park.

The staff of MET will conduct park management and monitoring work in the park. Monitoring entails the collection of data on key indicators to determine short to medium term changes, informing the effect of management actions so that they can be adjusted as required.

The Incident Book Monitoring System in the Sperrgebiet will be used to collect  and  record  data  on  mammals,  plants,  climate,  law enforcement, tourism, mining, roads, fences and veld condition.

Furthermore, patrols are undertaken in designated routes to collect data and also to undertake management work such as repairing infrastructure and prevention of illegal activities. Joint patrols with officials from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources are undertaken especially along the coast which will form a buffer zone between the National Park and the Marine Protected Area. Staff also undertake quarterly game counts and an annual bird count to determine and estimate game and bird populations in the park. We all need to know that throughout the country, Government has adopted a zero tolerance on illegal hunting and the park we are launching today is no exception.

Other work that has been conducted in the Park includes:

  • Work on an information centre and signage planning,
  • The    installation   of    radio    repeaters    for   communication throughout the park
  • The establishment of a new MET base at Oranjemund
  • A biodiversity study to identify areas of critical conservation importance
  • The  zonation  of  the  Park  in  accordance  with  the  World Conservation Union (IUCN) zonation categories

Director of Ceremonies,

Close collaboration for Park management with other partners, in particular  the  mining  sector,  will  be  critical  as  limited  mining operations will continue in the Sperrgebiet.  This presents us with an opportunity to demonstrate to the world how mining and conservation can  complement  each  other  to  achieve  biodiversity  conservation goals. I believe you cannot be a proud nation to have resources while your people are going hungry or live in obsolete poverty. We need to strike a balance between conservation and sustainable development.

The rehabilitation of disturbed areas to ensure the return of those to their natural state or even closer will be a priority in the management of the park. Namdeb has taken the lead in this initiative and we applaud their efforts, which we hope will be emulated by other mining companies.

The biodiversity importance of the Sperrgebiet has seen investment from international donors to assist with management capacity building and with strengthening biodiversity protection and awareness raising of the unique Succulent Karoo Biome. Those who have supported us includes the Conservation International and Critical Ecosystem Partnerships   Fund   (CEPF)   that   supported   Succulent   Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported Strengthening the Protected Area Network (SPAN) Project and the GEF/World Bank has supported the Coast Conservation and Management (Nacoma) Project.

Together these projects have worked to strengthen capacity, hence the reason for our being here today. I am therefore, on behalf of the Namibian people and the entire government thank all those organisations for the valuable support. It is my hope that together with you, we will continue to help this new park to grow to its full potential.

I will not fulfil my obligations fully if I don’t recognise the work done by the staff of MET, in particular the Directorate of Parks and Wildlife because without their dedication and commitment, this day would not have been realised. To you all, I wish you all the best and keep up your hard work.

Director of Ceremonies,

The proclamation of the Sperrgebiet National Park is a gift to the Namibian nation and to the world. It is a treasure as one of the last wilderness areas on this planet to be protected for future generations, while it offers a lifeline for fresh opportunities for southern towns to develop new tourism ventures and benefit the country’s economy. It is now my honour and privilege to declare the Sperrgebiet National Park officially launched.

I thank you