Through its African Biocultural Community Protocol (BCP) Initiative, Natural Justice travelled to the Bwabwata National Park in West Kaprivi, Namibia during the week of 7th May to meet with residents. Proclaimed a national park in 2007, Bwabwata is the largest of the five protected areas in northeastern Namibia and is bordered to the north by Angola and the south by Botswana. Bwabwata consists of high number of large mammals that are both rare and of important economic value. The grasslands provide habitat for roan, sable and tsessebe along with an important bird habitat. Bwabwata has three core areas designated for special protection and controlled tourism. It also has a large multiple use area zoned for community-based tourism, trophy hunting, human settlement and development by the residents of the community. The Bwabawata resident community is 80% Kwhe. The Kwhe are generally allowed to live sustainably with the environment and natural resources within the park.
In the absence of current legislation formally recognizing the rights of park residents, the Namibian government does recognize the Karamachan Association as the ‘appropriate representative body for the community of residents of the Bwabwata within the context of tourism development and natural resource management involving the community’.
In collaboration with locally based NGO Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) and the Karamachan Association, Natural Justice held consultations over two days with community members in which representation in the park, loss of culture and traditional knowledge, possible livelihood projects including access and benefit sharing, and the community’s vision for the future were all discussed. Natural Justice will continue to work with the community, Karamachan Association and IRDNC to assist in the development of a Bwabwata National Park residents BCP, which they hope to use to address some of their concerns and support their vision for the future.