June 3, 2004

World Bank grants first direct financial assistance

The World Bank has approved a US$7,1 million (about N$45m) grant for Namibia to scale up community-based ecosystem management for the benefit of rural people, biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use. The grant, which will be made available through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), is the first direct financial assistance that Namibia will receive from the World Bank. "The project will help conserve and restore ecosystems services in some of the most critical habitats found on communal lands while promoting sustainable use for income generation throughout Namibia's communal conservancy network, which covers currently some 29 registered conservancies with 150.000 residents across 75.000 square kilometres," Rick Scobey, GEF Sector Manager for Southern Africa, held in a statement.

The decision to accept financial assistance from the World Bank puts paid to Namibia's refusal to have anything to do with the Washington-based institution and its sister body, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which President Sam Nujoma has described as imperialist agents. The two organisations have gained a reputation in the Third World for forcing heavily indebted borrowers to introduce economic changes, often with painful consequences, such as cutbacks to education and healthcare programmes. The World Bank said although Namibia was well known for some of its world-class national parks, much of the locally and globally important biodiversity can be found outside these parks. About 85 per cent of Namibia's population lives in these rural areas depending largely on limited livestock grazing and marginal farming.

The five-year project will work through Namibia's 'Community Conservancy' Programme to improve rural livelihoods and promote sustainable environmental management. Much of the funding will be made available directly to rural communities. "The Ministry of Environment and Tourism, as the implementing agency of this project, is pleased that additional funding has been made available by the GEF through the World Bank in support of Namibia's community-based natural resource management program," said Malan Lindeque, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism "This programme has expanded beyond expectations and has already resulted in significant levels of community participation in the recovery and management of important natural resources such as wildlife, and economic benefits from those resources to rural communities. This grant will enhance the Ministry's capacity to support this programme and expand its benefits", added Lindeque.

Identified activities include among others the development of community-based tourism facilities including joint ventures with the private sector, trophy hunting, game meat production, commercialisation of indigenous plants, and craft production. The project should further assist the Namibian Government to continue its efforts towards the development of a sustainable funding mechanism and an integrated policy and legal framework for community-based ecosystem management. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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