“Today we are visiting our mother Etendeka, which means the hills on top each other, we the Omatedenka Conservancy are her children. We are a family that is responsible for each other." - Gustaph Thundukamba from the Kunene Region Community Conservancy Association (KRRCA)
Etendeka Mountain Camp has been operating for 25 years and in February 2012 Etendeka Lodge Company entered into a 20 year joint venture agreement with the Omatendeka and Anabeb Conservancies for the continued lease of the concession and the rental of fixed assets that belong to the conservancies. The land is state land but is also communal land and accessible as controlled marginal grazing area for communities to the north.
Founder of the Etendeka Mountain Camp Dennis Liebenberg and Roger Fussell from the operating company Big Sky Lodges have quarterly meetings with the Omatendeka and Ananbeb communities who benefit directly from the proceeds of the lodge. The feedback sessions include updates on plans for the camp as well as financial reporting. The conservancies will be given the option to buy the operational company when the concession expires in 2032.
This joint venture between the community and the private sector is part of a successful model set up by the Namibian Government in the mid nineties to help drive tourism and economic development in the country. By forming conservancies, communities in remote areas like this are empowered to manage and benefit from their natural resources. All Government concessions now operate as joint ventures with indigenous communities.
“This is my favourite place in the world,” says Boas Musaso who has been a guide at Etendeka for nearly a decade and is from the Ananbeb Conservancy. His wife and sister also work at the camp. “This area has been the same for thousands of years and we want to keep it that way. It is a long term relationship, that benefits us now and that will serve our children in the future.”
Namibia was the first country in Africa to include the protection of the environment into its constitution. Almost half of the country is under conservation management.This can only work if there is a real benefit and a buy-in from communities living on communal land. A detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been incorporated in the joint venture agreement between the operator, Etendeka Lodge Company, and the community represented by Omatendeka and Anabeb conservancies, detailing how the land should be utilized and protected. With a large percentage of Namibia's wildlife living outside of National Parks, on private land and on concessions like Etendeka, managing the Human-Wildlife Conflict is an important aspect of conservation. Etendeka has no fences and wildlife move in and out of this 50 000 ha piece of wilderness depending on the season and the availability of food and water.
Etendeka and the conservancies support AfriCat North, an initiative to protect Namibia's wild lion populations by educating communities who are being impacted and encouraging adapted livestock management.
“These quarterly meetings are essential for us to be able to give feedback to our members,” says Gustaph Thundukamba. “Our people want to know what our plans are and what our successes have been. We have been working with Dennis for 25 years and our relationship is built on trust.”