In the heart of the Okanguati Conservancy, a dedicated group of indigenous people has been tirelessly working to protect and preserve the rich natural heritage they call home.
For more than two decades, these conservationists have committed their time and efforts to safeguarding the diverse wildlife and ecosystems accommodated in an area of 1 159 square kilometres.
Stationed at the Okanguati Conservancy office is field officer Verinura Kakondo.
He says he started as a livestock farmer and became a crucial figure in the conservancy’s preservation.
“I love animals, and I enjoyed participating in committee meetings when I first started,” Kakondo says.
“That’s how they voted me into the committee.”
As part of his duties, Kakondo has been instrumental in bringing about significant change. In the past, locals received no compensation for the loss of their livestock due to wild animal attacks. However, through Kakondo’s persistence, the government now compensates affected individuals.
“Since I started this role, I’ve been meticulously recording livestock losses and submitting them to the government,” he says.
One of the most pressing challenges faced by the conservancy is the persistent threat of leopards, jackals and other predators to farmers’ livestock.
However, thanks to Kakondo’s efforts, the community now knows exactly who to approach when they face such losses.
“I started working here for free out of love for the environment, and even though the government now provides a small upkeep fee, I’ll continue until I can make a difference.”
GUARDIAN OF THE WILD
Karipangura Tjiposa joined the conservancy committee in 2015, and became a game guard in 2017.
“I love wild animals, and they captured my attention to the point where I became a game guard,” he says.
Tjiposa’s responsibilities include monitoring wildlife, ensuring their well-being, and documenting incidents of wild animals preying on farmers’ livestock.
While his supervisor, Kakondo, highlights various challenges, Tjiposa stresses the importance of addressing network coverage problems.
“Effective communication is crucial, but the weak network often hampers our ability to share critical information with our colleagues,” he says.
Despite their vital roles, game guards like Tjiposa receive no monetary compensation and rely on the goodwill of others.
“I’m doing this for the future generations,” he says.
“I want them to experience our area’s beautiful wildlife and leverage it for the region’s growth through tourism and education.”
‘ALL FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS’
Mumbai Kavari, a committee member since 2017, says his commitment to the conservancy is driven by the desire to secure a better future for upcoming generations.
“Our conservancy may be one of the poorest, but we’re not seeking riches, just a bit of support for our sustenance and to make our work easier.”
Kavari believes the legacy they leave behind will provide a foundation for future generations to build on.
“Our work is for the protection of the conservancy and its resources, so that our children won’t face the same financial challenges we do today.”
PASSION TO PRESERVE
Completing this team of dedicated conservationists is Kaukutua Tjiposa, who has spent approximately a year working at the conservancy.
His fascination with wild animals and a deep-rooted curiosity about his surroundings led him to this noble cause, he says.
“I want to know more about my area and I want to protect the wildlife here,” he says.
The Okanguati Conservancy boasts kudus, springbok, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, as well as predators like leopards, cheetahs, jackals, hyenas and crocodiles.
These magnificent creatures, coupled with the conservancy’s unique landscapes, present opportunities for tourism and education.
The conservancy, however, faces ongoing challenges, such as limited resources and the need for infrastructure development.
Kakondo says they require financial support to raise awareness of the conservancy, set up guest camps, and establish traditional structures to attract tourists and generate revenue for community growth.
Environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda referred The Namibian to the manager of the conservancy, Veyamuyera Ngombe.
Ngombe said the conservancy was gazetted in the government about three years ago.
“Yes, we do operate without salaries, we just do it for the love of nature and protecting our environment,” Ngombe said.