For the fourth year running NUST and the ResMob Project, an initiative by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the GIZ, joined forces to host a course on the assessment and valuation of ecosystem services in the context of the biodiversity economy.
From the 2nd to 7th of July post-graduate students from NUST and UNAM as well as professionals from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and selected members of the Environmental Economics Network of Namibia came together in order to get a better insight into ecosystem services, both in theory and practice.
The first three days of the Summer School took place at the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) before students left for a three day Fieldtrip to the Waterberg area. Dr. Morgan Hauptfleisch, Senior Lecturer at NUST, introduced the heterogeneous group from different academic backgrounds (environmentalists, health practitioners, economists, accountants, forester, etc.) to the basic concepts of environmental services while Mwala Lubinda, also lecturing at NUST, gave the participants an introduction to economic concepts and evaluation methods. Interactive group exercises helped participants to understand the concepts better and served as a catalyst for many fresh ideas.
Additionally, expert talks by Dr. Martin Nowack (ResMob Project Manager), Dr. Chris Brown (CEO of the Namibian Chamber of Environment) and Courtney McLaren (ODI Fellow) showed the group how environmental service assessments and economic evaluation methods are applied in practice and explained the challenges they have been facing in their respective fields.
During the field trip the previously acquired knowledge was then put into practice. At the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) students were welcomed by Laurie Marker, founder of the CCF, who explained her reasons for founding the organisation and the ideas behind their on-site projects, especially regarding the reduction of human-wildlife conflict. Live-Demonstrations in the field showed students the impact of bush encroachment on ecosystem services and how de-bushing has economic opportunities, e.g. the CCF harvests encroacher bush to produce bush blocks (firewood) and charcoal. Further, students were shown how predators can both provide and reduce ecosystem services and what measures can be taken to reduce their negative impact, e.g. the CCF on-site breeding of livestock guardian dogs.
At B2Gold students were introduced to the concept of Bio-Offsetting and were surprised to see the sustainable investments in the environment, research and education that B2Gold has made on its property in the Waterberg landscape.
Despite the cold temperatures students enjoyed a warm atmosphere as well as fruitful discussions at the campsites and gave very positive feedback on their experiences.