Since the first lockdown that paralyzed Namibia, the Hub’s Namibia team has had to make huge adjustments to their work plans and postpone fieldwork. After some restrictions were lifted in Namibia, the team was able to go out to the field at the end of October.
The fieldwork was focused on coastal towns of Erongo Region (Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay), specifically, the Chief of Top Naar and management members of 3 Local Authorities. The purpose of the field visit was to undertake a gap analysis study to determine areas of potential research and to bolster a relationship between the One Ocean Hub (OOH) in Namibia, the Top Naar Community and the Local Authorities. Primary data through face-to-face interaction and video recording was collected from the Chief of the Top Naar Community, Director and Deputy Director of the Gobabeb Research Station, the Mayors, Chief Executive Officers and staff responsible for environmental management at the 3 Local Authorities. The practice of social distancing, wearing of masks and sanitizing was observed as per Government of Namibia Covid-19 protocols.
It emerged from the interaction with the Chief of the Top Naar community that his community were forced off the coast of Walvis Bay to an area about 50 Kilometers in the Namib Desert during the German and South African colonial rule and since independence, participation or partnership in ocean governance and managing ocean resources was non-existent. The areas where the Top Naar community were forced to live is declared a national park of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism. Responses from Local Authorities revealed a need and potential for ocean literacy education targeting communities, and primary and secondary school learners. Moreover, it became evident that the blue economy concept is new and needs exist to explore how its implementation could be well-thought-out to maximize benefits for the people while safeguarding ocean ecosystems. The researchers observed a lack of cooperation on ocean governance matters among 3 Local Authorities in the Erongo region. There was also an aspect of social capital, as it became evident that in instances where fishermen were organised through an association, such fishermen reaped significant benefits from ocean resources. These are seen as some areas of potential research from an ocean governance point of view.
Current work is focused on setting up instruments for the above areas of research and consolidating the data collected from the field trip.
There are also plans for another trip to undertake a further gap analysis in three coastal towns of the Erongo Region (Swakopmund, Walvisbay and Henties bay). This work seeks to use Focus Group Discussion (FGD) to collect further perspectives from Women groups, Youth Groups and Associations. Although the coastal communities and groups are over-researched, the gap analysis study reveals that previous studies did not focus on ocean governance matters. The gap analysis study is focused on participants’ perspectives on the coast, the ecological, economic and social challenges, knowledge and participation in existing ocean related-policies and fostering relationships with One Ocean Hub in Namibia.
“The fact that the three municipalities or town councils are not working together as regards to managing the coastline, makes it an interesting research area to explore”, says Sirkka Tshiningayamwe.
Socio-economic and cultural issues are not the only aspects one can look at in the context of the ocean influencing the community, adds Sirkka.
“There are also psychological challenges such as broken homes due to the type of jobs offered in the coast, this area attracts interest for research”.
After the exploratory trip conducted in October, the team seeks to understand issues of interest amongst project stakeholders. According to Sirkka, there is a need to explore ways on which the community living in the coastal areas can tap into the blue economy and how collaborations amongst the municipalities or town councils in the coastal regions can be achieved.
Namibia is currently discussing the implementation of Namibia’s Blue Economy which includes fisheries, marine mining, maritime transport and marine coastal tourism.
“The Namibian government seem to focus mostly on inward policies and neglects coastline policies. This needs to be explored further”, Sirkka says.
Finally, the fishing sectors continue to be occupied by the small minorities, the fish quotas seem to be allocated based on networks and trust that have a huge impact on ocean governance.
“The Namibian oceans contribute vastly to economic and environmental security but have become a story of stolen resources and missed opportunities” Sirkka concludes.