Namibia - Strengthening the Protected Area Network (SPAN)

Project Status: Ongoing (2005-2011)
GEF grant: US$8.550 million
Cofinance: US$33.677 million
Project cost: US$ 42.227 million
Web site:
Project Manager: Nik Sekhran, Sr Technical Adviser, Biodiversity Environment and Energy Group, UNDP

Namibia lies at the heart of the species-rich Namib-Karoo-Kaokoveld Desert, one of the WWF’s Global 200 Eco-regions. The country has a high level of endemism and is an evolutionary hub for groups of organisms, including melons, succulent plants, solifuges (commonly known as false spiders), geckos, and tortoises. Namibia’s conservation efforts have also made the country a stronghold for populations of large animals such as black rhinoceros (almost a third of the world’s population) and cheetah. Namibia has established an impressive system of state-managed protected areas (PAs) as a cornerstone of its conservation program.

The system comprises 20 national PAs, covering 13.8  percent of the country’s 114,000 km2 terrestrial area. There is huge potential for these areas to be woven into a tight, cohesive, and effective network of PAs, providing an effective buffer against threats to biodiversity. However, several barriers hinder the improvement of PA management effectiveness, including a fragmented policy framework, weak institutional capacities, weak human capacities for PA operations, incomplete biogeographic coverage, and the absence of tested mechanisms for public-private community partnerships.

The SPAN Project was designed to address three broad intervention areas: (i) strengthening systemic capacitythat is, creating an enabling legal/policy environment and financial mechanisms for PA management; (ii) strengthening institutional capacity; and (iii) demonstrating new ways of PA management. Four field demonstration sites – Bwabwata-Mudumu-Mamili Complex (Etosha), Skeleton Coast Link, Ai-Ais, and Sperrgeibiet – were selected for this component.

SPAN has provided technical and financial support for Namibia’s new Parks Bill (2008) and provided technical and financial support to finalizing park management related policies, including the Policy on Tourism and Wildlife Concession on State Land approved by the Cabinet in June 2007; the Human Wildlife Conflict Management (HWCM) policy approved by the Minister in December 2007; and the Policy on Parks, Neighbors and Resident People has been  finalized in 2008. The project’s studies and economic analysis have played a catalytic role in the MET’s efforts to increase government funding for Pas dramatically. As a result, the park management budget has increased by over 130 percent within two years, and a total of US$ 7.46 million additional funding has been sourced for park management and infrastructure consolidation from EU, KfW, USFWS, and international NGOs.

Namibia will soon proclaim the 26,000 km2 Sperrgebiet National Park, increasing Namibia’s PA coverage to about 17 percent of its territory. Much of the Sperrgebiet is in the succulent Karoo biome, one of the world’s few arid biodiversity hotspots. Sperrgebiet means “forbidden area” in German and, as a national diamond mining concession area, has been off-limits to the public for many years. The SPAN project has helped prepare a solid foundation for the new park, including development of park management, business, and tourism plans and the establishment of a co-management mechanism with stakeholders such as the mining and fishery sectors.