A total of 18 students from the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST), as well as four exchange students from Germany, participated in the 2017-Autumn School, jointly hosted by NUST and the ResMob Project. This third school of its kind was held from 22 to 26 April 2017, with most of the participants being nature conservation students. The theme of the course was, “Assessing and valuing ecosystem services for policy impacts”. Dr. Morgan Hauptfleisch of NUST and Arjan de Groot of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) facilitated the training.
Dr. Martin Nowack, GIZ Project Manager and Mr. Ferdinand Mwapopi, MET Project Coordinator, both in charge of the Resource Mobilisation for the Biodiversity Strategy of Namibia Project (ResMob), delivered presentations. Ms. Courtney McLaren from the Namibia Nature Foundation and Mr. Quintin Hartung acted as guest lecturers.
During first three days, in theoretical presentations at NUST, students were familiarized with topics such as ecosystem services, valuation methods and the integration of ecosystem services into policy making. They were also exposed to interactive elements, group exercises and presentations by the guest speakers. The last four days of the course were spent on a field trip to Kalahari Anib Lodge and Kalahari Farmhouse near Stampriet.
Ecosystem services assessments are useful for identifying key ecosystem services and to determine the state of ecosystems now and in the future. They bring about an improved ability to identify, assess and describe the benefits of ecosystem services that allows policy and decision makers to better understand how their actions depend on and might impact on the natural environment. It provides decision makers with the necessary information to consider potential trade-offs among different management options. It further allows them to choose policies that contribute to the maintenance, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems. Managing ecosystems in a way to sustain the flow of their services can also provide economic benefits and strengthen their resilience, especially in the face of climate change.
The GIZ developed a guide for development planners and policymakers on integrating ecosystem services into development planning. It advocates a stepwise approach through which it is possible to recognize, demonstrate and capture the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services for development planning. The course has been adapted to the Namibian context and was specifically designed to suit students in the field of Environmental Sciences at NUST. It combined the theoretical and practical elements according to the stepwise approach. These are:
- Defining the scope and setting the stage – What are the main issues?
- Screening and prioritising ecosystem services – How does development depend and impact on ecosystem services?
- Identifying ecosystem service conditions, trends, and trade-offs – What are drivers of change?
- Appraising the institutional and cultural framework – Which institutions, policies, regulations, needs and interests are there?
- Preparing better decision making – What are ecosystem-related risks and opportunities?
- Implementing change – Who is involved and in what role?
The training was based on the Harvard Case Methodology. It conveyed teaching messages mainly through interactive practical work by participants, which included:
- The introduction, provided the necessary theoretical background and introduced participants to the case work and the exercises.
- The case work gave participants the opportunity to work through the different aspects linked to IES in a systematic manner. Participants assumed the roles of “case work experts” or involved stakeholders in charge of the specific exercise’s task.
- The groups presented their results in a plenary session. The trainers offered alternatives and corrections when deemed necessary.
The course provided students with the relevant skills to identify and value the ecosystem services of the farming communities in the Stampriet and Mariental areas of the Hardap Region. Quintin Hartung explained the economic activities of the region and the natural basis on which animal farming and crop irrigation are dependent. Participants prepared their field work and research questions based on livestock, wildlife and irrigation farming as well as tourism.
The newly acquired knowledge and data enabled the participants to identify the key ecosystem services important to the functioning of the lodge as well as to the surrounding farms and communities. The students assessed the state of the vegetation and animal species present in three different ecosystems: the Karoo ecosystem, the Dune ecosystem and the River ecosystem, with the aim to determine the productivity of each ecosystem and the services they provide. Such assessments were carried out by measuring the density of grazing within quadrats, the counting of birds, bushes & trees and doing sweeps regarding vegetation, animal species, tracks and traces. The participants in small groups also interviewed various farmers about their operations and how ecosystem services impact on Stampriet and Mariental in terms of trade-offs, benefits and trends.
The facilitators and presenters described this training initiative as an overall success, as the students learned new insights, ways of thinking and skills. These sparked a lot of relevant discussions. Although the theoretical part had been important the students learned the most from the field work. The participants extended their gratitude to the lecturers and to the management and employees of Kalahari Anib Lodge and Kalahari Farmhouse for their meaningful contributions in making the course a success.
The support and assistance to NUST’s Autumn School complied with one of the three objectives of the ResMob Project, being the Development of Skills. The project is developing customised training programmes, cooperating with tertiary education institutions, strengthening environmental economics in Namibia and supporting the Environmental Economics Network of Namibia (EENN). The EENN brings together like-minded individuals working together to protect Namibia’s inimitable biodiversity by promoting and mainstreaming the use of environmental economics within Namibia.