Greetings! Just recently we went on a journey to Namibia’s arid north-west Kunene Region, and I thought it would be worth the while to explain how what we did is part of the uniqueness of conservation in Namibia. Currently I am working for NACSO (Namibia Association of CBNRM Support Organisations; CBNRM itself stands for Community Based Natural Resource Management), which works a lot with community conservation in Namibia. CBNRM is a management system, which is not entirely unique to just Namibia, but Namibia has shown itself (time and again) to be at the forefront of community resource management. Essentially, CBNRM is carried out through the various conservancies (or community forests), where the people have agreed to manage their natural resources, which will in turn give them benefits if those resources are managed correctly.
So with that in mind, one of the various benefits that these conservancies derive their income from is via tourism. Now, a newer initiative to the whole tourism aspect has just recently started in the form of tourist side-tracks. Side-tracks are self-guided off-road tourist routes which enable any willing tourist to explore the landscapes seen in communal conservancies. The intention of forming these side-tracks is to make the numerous attractions which can be seen in the communal areas more accessible. These newer side-tracks are usually a full day or a half day route, and they include points of interest along the way.
Therefore, our task was to mark the correct designated routes, due to there being many various roads in the area that are used by the community. As luck would have it, we started in the area of the Uibasen-Twyfelfontein Conservancy (which is nearby to the Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site). The particular theme of this side-track was the Doros Geological Mosaic, and as its name indicates, it displays the interesting geological features of the local area. This route was a fairly long route as it criss-crossed through the Uibasen-Twyfelfontein (Twyfelfontein is named after an Afrikaans phrase meaning ‘doubtful fountain’; Uibasen is named after the Khoekhoegowab phrase for ‘live for yourself’), the Doro !Nawas (named after the Doros Crater which means ‘the place where rhinos roam’) and the Sorris Sorris Conservancy (named after the Khoekhoegowab phrase for an ‘abundance of sunlight’). All in all, the route is definitely a must see from a geological point of view. Various features such as the Twyfelfontein Plateau, the Brandberg Mountain (Namibia’s highest free standing mountain), and the Doros Crater are all visible on this particular route. If you are a plant lover, well, there are the various Commiphora species, the Acacia robynsiana (endemic to Namibia), and the Welwitschia mirabilis that can be seen at various points along the route. There are many other features that would draw a person to this area, but I leave the travelling along this 4×4 route to your imagination.
The next side-track which we had to mark was in the ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy (named after the Khoekhoegowab phrase for ‘elephant’s corner’), which had the side-track theme of Living with wildlife in ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy (this side-track is a half day side-track). Essentially, this side-track focusses on the core principals of conservancy management (which can be seen in most conservancies). In this particular route, if you arrange beforehand, you can visit the conservancy office and the staff will explain management systems which allows the conservancy to function (such as the Event Book System, the game guards, the game counts, etc.). Along this particular route, you will discover interesting features such as the Fig Tree Waterhole — and if you’re lucky, you may even get to see the indigenous wildlife.
As I said before, tourism is very important in these communal areas, as it gives them incentives to actively manage their natural resources. So if you’re ever in the area and you want to go off the beaten track, visit the conservancy side-tracks and be amazed by the beauty of the natural world around you.