We all know the age-old adage, “If it pays, it stays.” And though it may seem a generalisation and simplification of an intricate and tricky dilemma, at its core is a sense of truth we are hard pressed to dispute. Fundamentally, as the human race, we know that if something has value it has greater import. If something has value, whether that value is big or small, there will always be a greater incentive to protect it. To safeguard it. To appreciate it. And even to try and replicate it or produce more of it. The value placed on elements of the natural world is no different. Wildlife is no different. And so, even though we would theoretically like for something as important as wildlife and nature to be protected on the mere basis of ideological, moral and emotional merits, when push comes to shove, the truth boils back down to that age-old simplified adage… “If it pays, it stays.”
In southern Africa this is no different, and in countries like Namibia we have seen tremendous success in applying this value addition to conservation practices. Our CBNRM (community-based natural resource management) programme is one very good example of how nature and wildlife conservation can thrive by placing value on natural resources so that those who are entrusted to protect it can benefit from the labours of their work. Another very important and easily measurable example of how conservation is made possible through a value-driven approach is hunting. And in Namibia, it is one of the most important factors that contribute to the economic viability and support of conservation of natural resources.
I sat down with Frans Kamenye, the fund manager of the Game Products Trust Fund of Namibia to discuss why hunting matters to the funding of conservation in Namibia. The Game Products Trust Fund (GPTF) was established by an Act of Parliament that was signed in September 1997 and published in terms of Article 56 of the Namibian constitution. The GPTF was formed to ensure that revenue raised from the use of wildlife and wildlife products recovered from state land is reinvested into wildlife management, conservation, rural development and activities aimed at promoting the coexistence of humans and wildlife. Today the GPTF also works extensively in the field of human-wildlife conflict.
WHAT DOES IT PAY FOR?
The GPTF is one of Namibia’s largest financial contributors to conservation and facilitates funding for infrastructure and management projects such as:
Borehole drilling and maintenance in national parks and communal areas
Construction and upkeep of game fencing
Wildlife population management and anti-poaching activities (including everything from employee wages, food, housing, vehicles etc.)
Human-wildlife conflict mitigation and management projects, including funding of funeral costs, livestock loss and crop damage reimbursements for communities living with wildlife and often suffering as a result
WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM?
The initial capital with which the fund was started was received from revenue of a large-scale ivory stockpile auction. Today, however, the GPTF’s funding comes from various sources, including:
Trophy hunting concessions in communal conservancies (N$10 000 000 – N$13 000 000 per annum)
Special game quota auctions by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (for example the auction of a small select number of high-value game such as rhino or elephant for hunting or live sale)
Donations from foreign bodies
A levy on export fees of huntable game trophies
Funds derived from problem animal hunts
Conservation fees from national parks (a new mechanism introduced by government in 2021).
If you look at the above breakdown, four out of six of the GPTF’s funding mechanisms revolve around hunting. That is two thirds. And the ratio percentage when the actual monetary value of each income stream is calculated is even more than that. As the GPTF is the main source of funding for our country’s largest and most important conservation initiatives, it does not get much clearer than this… If you have been unable to wrap your mind around the tangible benefits to date, there it is in basic maths. That is why hunting matters.
If we can find no other reason to defend our nation’s right to utilise its natural resources sustainably, and for the good of the environment and people of the country, then the role that hunting plays in funding conservation should be more than enough.
A PARTNERSHIP FOR SUCCESS
Unlike most other conservation-oriented bodies in Namibia and most parts of Africa, the GPTF was able to continue funding all its activities throughout the pandemic. Tried and tested, the partnership between sustainable use and conservation in Namibia works. The proof is in the GPTF pudding. “Hunting adds value to conservation,” says Frans during our discussion. “When wildlife has value and the system can be legally and ethically controlled, hunting is a powerful tool for conservation support.” He goes on to unpack the extended value chain which hunting supports, a value chain that goes far beyond the value of the animal being hunted. From air travel to accommodation, food and fuel – hunters have buying power and make a tremendous economic contribution during their visit. Beyond that, when compared to photographic tourism, the average hunter’s footprint is far less than that of the average tourist. Frans also notes that the economic benefits to communities are often seen far more quickly within the hunting system than with photographic tourism. Not that there isn’t value in both, but they each play their role in the system.
Frans uses the example of two elephants that were put up for hunting auction a while ago. He explains that US$2 million were paid for the hunt of those two elephants. The government, communities and private partners shared in the benefit. How many tourists, at what environmental impact, would we have to source and service to equal that? Especially in the travel-weary current climate. “If hunting is banned, we won’t have the same protection power,” Frans says. If we can find no other reason to defend our nation’s right to utilise its natural resources sustainably, and for the good of the environment and people of the country, then the role that hunting plays in funding conservation should be more than enough.