13 Apr 2015 13:30pm
WGBL farmers venture into tourism activities
By Pearl Coetzee
WINDHOEK, 13 APR (NAMPA) Illegal squatters, unlawful fire wood collectors, poaching, housebreaking and theft have severely harmed farming activities in the Windhoek Green Belt Landscape (WGBL) area.
While many farmers here had to forgo farming as losses become insurmountable, new initiatives that have changed the way of life for these farmers have emerged.
Farmers have taken up tourism, biodiversity and socio-economic development activities, which have replaced their traditional mode of farming for the better.
The area covered by the WGBL, which measures about 760 square kilometres (km2), is located in the Khomas Hochland Plateau and is one of the five sites being piloted for the concept of landscape conservation under the Namibia Protected Landscape Conservations Areas Initiative (Nam-Place).
Nam-Place was implemented jointly by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the year 2011, and will come to an end in 2016.
It aims to lift conservation barriers and advocate for the establishment of a large-scale network of protected landscapes.
Through this initiative, the Khomas-Hochland Hiking Trail (KHHT) was born. It is about 90 kilometres long and located in the WGBL area.
KHHT, which will be open for the public in due course, represents five members of the WGBL, namely owners of Farm Godeis, Düsternbrook Guest Farm, Onduno Hunting Ranch, Otjiseva, and Monte Christo, as well as Government on behalf of the Daan Viljoen Game Park.
A variety of activities will form part of the KHHT on each farm. The Hiking Organisation South Africa (HOSA) has mapped out and designed the trails on each farm.
During a media excursion trip to farm Godeis on Friday, Nam-place Communications Officer Manini Kandume explained that the project aims to ensure that land uses in areas adjacent to existing protected areas is compatible with biodiversity conservation objectives, and that corridors are established to sustain the viability of wildlife populations.
Godeis is located about 70 kilometres outside the capital in the Khomas-Hochland plateau.
The Windhoek Green Belt Landscape is being managed under an innovative co-operative management approach where many landowners are coming together to manage the area at landscape level. Working together and working at landscape-level brings multiple benefits when compared to managing only at farm level.
Since there have been very minimal activities in the WGBL in terms of the landscape concept, there was a need for general awareness and introduction of the landscape concept, with specific emphasis on the Nam-Place project, she noted.
Speaking at the same occasion, a representative of the Monte Christo farm in the Brakwater area, Fritz Rothel said his father sold all their livestock and gave up livestock farming a long time ago.
However, illegal hunting continues with other thefts reported on the farm. Furthermore, the uncontrolled harvesting of trees by informal settlers for fuel wood currently poses the main threat to biodiversity found in the WGBL.
Uncontrolled bush fires destroy habitats. All these kinds of practices generally results in the degradation of wildlife habitat and destruction of wildlife food resources, he warned.
Under this project, hiking enthusiasts can now look forward to new adventures that range from one to six-day excursions, set in the scenic views of the Windhoek valley.
Fitness, however, is a prerequisite for all hikers.
Gesa Kock from Farm Godeis, who led the 10-member media team said the hike is a break-taking experience for nature lovers through the raw landscape sceneries of the Khomas-Hochland.
The trail started off with a fairly steep climb from the 100-year-old house up to Bakkies Uitsig and furthermore to the Camp View Point, which is all part of the six kilometre Dassie trail.
Loose rocks are a big challenge on the route. On the way, the Klipspringer Couch is a must-see, which is a rock that stands out in the bush. The high black eagle nest requires a bit of a scouts eye to find in the surroundings.
This is a unique experience just outside the capital and the trails are perfect over a weekend, she boasted to the out-of-breath hikers.
The hikes are ideal for a group of friends and nature enthusiasts that can travel in a four-by-four (4x4) or a sedan to the farm. Expeditions include the one-day Dassie trail, which is about six kilometres (km) long and the leopard hike which is 16 km long. The activity costs N.dollars 170 per person per day, with accommodation excluded.
Camping facilities are available for tents or caravans, while cooking and shower facilities are also available. In addition to the hiking, mountain biking is also planned for the near future on the farm.