EMPOWERING NAMIBIAN TRIBAL COMMUNITIES TO CHAMPION ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION
We are raising money to fund a 3-month research study in the Kunene region of Namibia.
The study will investigate the relationship and interactions between tribal communities and the regions’ iconic nature and wildlife, to develop tailored environmental awareness programmes for school children and communities. Our goal is to empower rural communities in Namibia to champion environmental conservation, while benefiting from sustainable use of natural resources and improved rural livelihoods.
The study is led by an experienced team of Namibian conservationists and educators, with the support of research scientists in the UK. The team have secured the support of tribal communities for the study, and Kunene’s local government have endorsed the project.
The project is due to start in March 2019. We aim to raise £4,500 to cover salaries for the Namibian research team and interpreters, transport costs, camping accommodation, uniforms with project logo and gifts for tribe chiefs. Below you can find more details on our research objectives and methodology, the team members, our partnerships, the logistics and costs.
We are very happy about any and all donations and would be extremely grateful for your support!
The Kunene region in northwest Namibia is often described as the country’s last wilderness, where rare desert-adapted elephants, rhinos and lions roam across sandy plains and rocky mountains. The region is also home to many indigenous tribal communities, such as Himba, Herero, Damara and San people.
Living in remote rural areas, these communities are in direct contact with nature and sometimes at the frontline of human-wildlife conflicts. Traditional beliefs about the natural world have developed in tribal communities over centuries and can influence human attitudes towards and interactions with nature and wildlife.
In their daily lives, rural communities often rely on natural resources. Climate change and more frequent environmental disasters such as droughts can have devastating impacts on many livelihoods. In addition, potentially unsustainable resource use could negatively affect both the environment and human prosperity.
In our research study, we will investigate how traditional beliefs and views about nature and wildlife influence the relationship between tribal communities and the natural world that surrounds them. This will allow us to identify the knowledge and tools that could empower communities to actively engage in environmental conservation and wildlife protection.
We will also document how communities utilise and rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. This will enable us to understand how promotion of sustainable resource management could benefit rural communities and align environmental and human needs.
Based on the insight generated by this research, we will develop dedicated environmental awareness and training programmes for rural communities in Namibia. This will include nature education and immersive experiences for school children and guidelines for including environmental education in Namibian school curricula.
Our ultimate goal is to support rural populations in Namibia to actively engage in and benefit from sustainable resource management, while being guardians of nature and wildlife. We work to synergise human prosperity with biodiversity conservation, so that tribal communities and nature can thrive alongside each other.
Our Namibian research team will visit and survey communities in the Kunene region who belong to six different tribes: the Ovahimba, Ovaherero, Ovathemba, Ovambo, San and Damara.
Setting out from the town of Outjo, the team will visit the following settlements (see map):
1. Otjikondo and Namatanga 2. Palmwag and surrounding settlements 3. Anmire traditional village 4. Purros traditional village 5. Otjomatemba and Otjive 6. Kunene village near Opuwo 7. Otjerunda and Namakange 8. Seringkop (including Balalaka, Nuchas, Mooi Plaas and Toevlug settlements)
The team will use tailored questionnaires to interview adults, children and school teachers in each village. The survey questions were designed to identify and document:
- Existing tribal beliefs and perceptions of nature and wildlife in the region. - The influence of such traditional beliefs on human interactions with the environment. - The approach to natural resource use in communities. - The content of environmental education at school. - The role that school education plays in shaping attitudes towards nature and wildlife. - Interest in learning more about nature, conservation and sustainability.
The team will follow Namibian tribe tradition when visiting communities by first presenting a gift to the tribe’s chief or headman and asking for their permission to visit the village and its people. The team have already contacted many of the chiefs, who have expressed their support for this project (see “Contacts and Partnerships” below).
The team will spend on average ten days in each village, which will allow sufficient time to interview a representative number of families and visit local schools to interview teachers and school children. The four members of the team will work in groups of two to maximise the number of interviewees. Transport in between villages will sometimes take several days due to large distances and poor road conditions.
Data analysis and dissemination of research output
Experienced UK-based scientists will assist with statistical analysis and interpretation of the data. A summary of the results will be presented to Namibian school directors and the Namibian Minister of Education, who have already expressed their interest in and support for this study (see “Contacts and Partnerships” below). We will also engage with local and national Namibian media to share the results more widely with the general public. In addition, we aim to produce a short scientific article.
Regular updates and progress reports and the final research output will of course also be shared with our sponsors on this website.
The research study will be carried out by an experienced team of four Namibian conservationists and educators. Two UK-based scientists provide support for the research project and will assist with the analysis and dissemination of the results. Our team members are:
Steven M. Maseka
Steven is an award-winning Namibian environmentalist with a huge passion for nature, wildlife and environmental education. He is the founder of the project NEAT (Namibian Environmental Awareness Training) to which this research study will contribute.
Steven worked with the Namibia Nature Foundation as an Environmental Educator in 2005 and participated as a translator in the Biodiversity Monitoring Transect Analysis (BIOTA) in Southern Africa in 2008. He then worked for five years in Namibia’s world-renowned Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme in the Kavango region. From 2014 to 2016, he led a tree plant and environmental clean-up project in the town of Outjo, in collaboration with the municipality and secondary school teachers and students. During the years 2017 and 2018, he studied and cared for pangolins, vultures and other endangered species at the conservation centre REST in Namibia. Steven featured in the 2018 BBC documentary on pangolins.
Shiwana was born in Ruacana in Namibia’s Kunene region and has a deep love for the wildlife and nature of this area. He is fluent in several of Kunene’s many local languages and dialects, which is a great asset for the project.
Shiwana worked at Kunene River Lodge from 2008 to 2009, where he discovered his passion for nature. In 2010, he joined the NYIME Anti-Poaching Unit (NAPU), Namibia’s largest private anti-poaching organisation. For several years, Shiwana was involved in NAPU’s critical work to protect wildlife from poaching. In 2014, he left NAPU and started a garden in his backyard in the town of Outjo.
Alexander K. Muyambango
Alexander is both teacher and environmentalist, with a particular passion for preservation of trees and forests.
He holds a diploma in education and for many years worked in pre-primary education of young children before the start of their school life. In 2013 and 2014, he was involved in communal land surveys across Namibia, to prevent illegal grazing and land degradation. In 2016 he worked for a community forest project in Mbeyo in northeast Namibia, which aimed to reduce illegal cutting and export of wood. He then started his own business and is now running a fruit tree plantation in the town of Outjo.
Hanna is an environmental policy advisor in the UK and has a lifelong passion for nature and animals, ever since spending her childhood holidays on a farm.
She has an MSc in physics, a PhD in neuroscience and extensive experience in scientific research in academia. She currently works as a policy advisor supporting the development and implementation of measures to combat air pollution.
In her free time, Hanna runs workshops on climate change for the environmental organisation 350.org, and she has volunteered for conservation and education projects in the UK, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Tanzania, Malawi and Namibia. She is passionate about raising environmental awareness and contributing to meaningful environmental action.
Sole is an award-winning data scientist at a UK insurance company and is excited about using her skills to make the world a better place.
She has an MSc in biology, a PhD in biochemistry, and 10+ years of experience as a research scientist in academic institutions, publishing more than 10 scientific articles in various fields such as Cancer Research and Neuroscience. Sole has 4+ years of experience as an instructor in biochemistry at university and has mentored many MSc and PhD students.
Since 2015, she works as a data scientist and builds statistical models for finance and insurance companies. Sole was the winner of the 2018 Data Leaders awards for data science and analytics. She has created multiple online courses on machine learning which have enrolled 3000+ students worldwide.
The Namibian research team have already developed strong relationships with key partners whose support is instrumental for the success of the project. Tribe chiefs have expressed interest in the project and are happy to welcome the research team in their communities. Local and regional politicians have also endorsed the project.
We are proud to be supported by:
Mr Thomas Sheya (Governor of Kunene) Mr A. Jantze (Director of Education, Research and Training) Mr Ervin K. (Principal of Gam primary school) David Khamuxab (Chief of San tribe) Kapika Hikuminue (Chief of Himba tribe) Xamseb K (Chief of Damara tribe) Petrus Ukongo (Chief of Vambo tribe) John Haneb (Headman of Ovathemba tribe)
Deon Brummer, the owner of Basecamp Namibia outside the town of Outjo, will provide the team with a suitable vehicle and dedicated driver during the 3 months in which the project will take place. This is vital as public transport in the area is almost non-existent and the team will be visiting communities in remote and difficult to access locations. The team will camp overnight in the villages they visit.