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IPPR Presents Latest Research on ‘Depleting Natural Capital’; Findings Debated

The Institute for Public Policy Research’s latest October 2020 Briefing Paper ‘Depleting Natural Capital’ in which it critiques the role of the government’s “misgovernance and maladministration” in the growing depletion of Namibia’s natural resources has elicited some contentious debate.

Weak Enforcement Cultures 

A key theme outlined in the presentation concerned the weakness of existing regulatory frameworks and a lack of coordination between government departments to tackle poaching, sandmining, and other illegal activities taking place in the forestry sector. 

According to report author Frederico Links, the accelerated depletion of natural resources in Namibia since 2015 is rooted in “the failures of relevant government departments to perform their custodial and regulatory functions”. These cumulative losses to natural capital are in turn compounded by a lack of “corresponding investment in human or produced capital … leading to an overall decrease in living standards” for the Namibian population. 

With respect to wildlife, although collaborations between environmental law enforcement, private conservationists and community members have facilitated a more comprehensive response to poaching in recent years, the number of poachers arrested has increased significantly since 2015. However, despite this spike in wildlife-related criminal arrests, the government has yet to finalise or implement the Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill which seeks to increase sentencing time and penalty fines for such violations. 

A similar pattern of lax legal enforcement was also observed in the forestry sector where timber harvesting permits have been over-distributed by forestry officials who have not acted in accordance with the stipulations enclosed in the Environmental Management Act of 2007. Moreover, “a lack of coordination” between government structures at the various levels has also undercut the state’s ability to combat illegal sandmining occurring largely in the communal areas of the Northeast. 


Some Successes

Although clear in its messaging that the government must do more to protect Namibia’s natural capital, the presentation made certain to cite some of the work already being done to expand protective legislation and increase law enforcement capacities, 

For example, in 2017 the Nature Conservation Ordinance (No. 4 of 1975) was amended to make way for harsher fines and sentencing for poaching. Secondly, an anti-poaching Intelligence and Investigation Unit (IIU) was established in 2017 under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which has since taken action to create a Wildlife Crimes Database in collaboration with NAM-POL’s Protected Resources Division in 2019. 

There has also been encouraging signs of greater collaboration between various stakeholders including the IIU, NAM-POL, the Office of the Prosecutor-General, Customs & Excise, Forensics, and other relevant departments to make wildlife law enforcement more effective. 


Mixed Responses 

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s Vice Director Johnson Ndokosho has rejected the “majority of opinions and content” of the IPPR Report due to its alleged failure to acknowledge the efforts already made by the government to improve environmental protections (Allgemeine Zeitung, 30/10/20). For example, an amendment is currently being drafted to replace the Nature Conservation Ordinance (1975) while the Wildlife Management and Protected Areas Bill is in the process of being finalised by the Parliamentary Legislative Committee. However, according to Ndokosho, the IPPR did not properly credit the government for its work in these areas. 

The IPPR has since refuted these allegations of one-sidedness, citing the fact that the improvements Ndokosho claimed were missing from the IPPR’s analysis were actually included in the full version of its ‘Depleting Natural Capital’ Briefing Paper (Allgemeine Zeitung, 02/11/20). 

Meanwhile, the HSF Resident Representative Dr Clemens von Doderer, while defending the definitive progress already made by the government, sought to encourage relevant state actors to double down on their efforts to prevent unwanted outcomes such as deforestation. To do so, von Doderer recommended the establishment of “National Forestry Inventory in which the forest stock is recorded … since you can only manage something if you know how much you have of it”.

Dr von Doderer also underlined the importance of civil and private sector support for government-led environmental initiatives, noting the HSF’s own efforts to facilitate sustainable forest management by conducting training and information-sharing programs in the Zambezi and Kavango regions with funding recently awarded by the European Union. 

In the final word, von Doderer spoke to the necessity of multifaceted responses to the issue of depleting natural capital. To successfully tackle threats of environmental degradation, all future interventions should be guided by the “three pillars of sustainability” balancing the interconnected interests of “the environment, the economy and the people.” 

Written By: Kitty Mcgirr (HSF Intern)