Natural Justice co-hosted a three day, biocultural community protocol (BCP) focused workshop in partnership with Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC, http://www.irdnc.org.na/), and the Khwe Custodian Committee members, supported by the Benelex project (http://www.benelex.ed.ac.uk/), the Legal Assistance Centre (www.lac.org.na) and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Over the three days, 4 half-day village meetings were held, facilitated by the Khwe Custodian Committee in their Khwedom language. The meeting was preceded by short presentations by Natural Justice on the BCP as a legal instrument; the Legal Assistance Center on the Namibian legal framework and the Namibian Ministry of Environment & Tourism on the pending Traditional Knowledge Bill and the BCP. Each half day aimed to validate the aspirations and priorities as set out in the draft BCP framework document. It is also intended to be an accountability measure to ensure the representatives’ account to the villagers and get feedback on the decisions and representations inside the draft BCP framework document.
The evenings around campfire were used to de-brief with the Khwe Custodian committee and the different partners present. The Namibian government officials namely the ABS focal point, Ms. Kauna Schroder, indicated their support for the development of the first BCP in Namibia in line with the Nagoya Protocol, which Namibia ratified during 2014.
The overall feedback from the different villages emphasized the importance of the recognition of their customary institutions; access to their veld food and medicinal plants. They also strongly voiced the importance of “teaching through doing” with the children inside the core wildlife area. The challenge therefore is how the biocultural conservation practices that are drafted coincide to a greater measure with the Khwe community’s traditional ways.
The next steps are to invite the Khwe Custodian committee as well as the Kyaramacan Association representatives to come to Cape Town for a weeklong legal training. The Benelex Project in collaboration with Natural Justice and the Namibian government will also be co-hosting a national government stakeholder meeting to discuss the different challenges outlined by the Bwabwata National Park BCP.