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Volunteering in Namibia- Pratap Sinha (Volunteer, india)

Volunteering in Namibia- Pratap Sinha (Volunteer, india)

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Read on how volunteering changed the outlook and perception of Pratap.
Read on how volunteering changed the outlook and perception of Pratap.

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Published by: iVolunteer Overseas India on Apr 17, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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iVolunteer Overseas
D-134, First Floor, East of KailashNew Delhi-110065Tel.: +91 11-26217459Email : vso@ivolunteer.inWebsite: www.ivoindia.org
By Pratap Sinha, VSO Volunteer, India
“Volunteering”, the word it
self has common notion among usthat it is labour, free of cost. Whole of our life we have spenttime and money to gain professional degree and earn workingexperience, to have better quality of life for our self and ourfamily. So why on earth we should d
o “volunteering” and
spend our valuable time and experience in a country where wemight never imagine going even as tourist? The answer to thisquestion is within every individual. I can quote 1000s reasons
for why we should not do “volunteering” but only
one reason
from within is enough to do it. More over sometime we don’t
need reasons to do something selfless, or something we
believe in or just do something for a change. My “volunteering” term is coming to an end and I
have realized that meaning of this word is much more vast and colossal than we can ever imagine.It has changed my life and for sure I will do it again.
I got that one reason to do “volunteering” in March 2007 and soon I applied for IVO. Got selected
and placement by July 2007. And since Sept 2007, I am working in Namibia in a Community basedEnterprise Support Project under Namibian Association for CBNRM Support Organisation (NACSO).
I am implementing the project in coordination with NACSO’s partner NGOs working in Community
based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in communal conservancies. My mainresponsibility is to provide technical assistance to rural communal conservancies and communitygroups to improve their livelihood through income generating activities based on eco tourism,crafts and natural products. The project aims to build capacity and to transfer skills to beneficiariesand staff of partner NGOs through volunteers.
Namibia is governed under region system and there are 13regions. My field is in Erongo region and South Kunene regionwhich covers almost 1/5
of land area of the country i.e.approx 500km in radius. NACSO is an umbrella body whichsupports all the NGOs working under CBNRM along with thesupport of Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET),Government of Namibia. I am working in Community based Enterprise Support Project funded by European Commission(EC) and implemented by NACSO. I work very closely with theNGOs and MET to support 10 conservancies in my area mainly towards the business and enterprisedevelopment side. Conservancies are basically legally defined communal area which is managed by 
iVolunteer Overseas
D-134, First Floor, East of KailashNew Delhi-110065Tel.: +91 11-26217459Email : vso@ivolunteer.inWebsite: www.ivoindia.org
community with a proper constitution to protect the natural resource of the area as well asgenerate benefits for community. Size of a conservancy could be as big as 8000 hectare to 400hectares with membership varying from 3000 to 100. Total annual budget of a conservancy may vary from 5lakh INR to 35lakh INR. My role is to develop business plans, strategies, financial support, joint ventures etc. The main source of income is joint venture (JV) partnerships in lodgesand hunting is the second biggest source. The lodge partnership is with conservancies and privateinvestor (who are entrepreneurs or International hotel Chains). Since I started working, we have facilitated and got signed new JV agreement, investment of nearly 9 corers INR in my region. This isexpected to generating approx 150 direct jobs and around 500 indirect supporting jobs for community people and income of over 20 corers INR in 10 years time, over all. The existing joint ventures are already generating approx 1 corer INR per year in my region. Hunting JVs areamazingly profitable. This is done professionally and with quotas allotted by MET. The animals aretracked and chosen specially under the allotted quotas from MET. Culling is important to keep thebalance in environment. Income from hunting varies such as an antelope could bring earning of 10000INR to trophy of elephant 10 lakh INR excluding the benefits from meat and skin for community. My other roles are in training conservancy committees on the business issues,negotiation of JV deals, conflict resolution, benefit distribution plan, JV management, planningbusiness activities etc. Apart from these two major income generating activities, I also support incampsite development, craft and natural product. Campsites are very famous here. Tourists prefer self catering service and campsites. They have their tents, cooking equipments, sleeping bags etcevery thing in 4 wheel drive car. So the campsites provide secured clean place with swimming pool,toilets and restaurant facilities. As a matter of fact, I am provided with all kind of camping gear tolive in tents while I am in field. Basically I live at least 15 days monthly camping. Some times that includes bush and villages where there are no proper camping facilities. Income from formal campsite may be around 250-350INR per person per night. Craft industry is not that very strong inNamibia as in Eastern Africa. But it is still an important income generating activity for tribal women. There raw materials used in craft are generally ostrich egg shell, skin, seeds, rock and wood. They are very different and unique in them self. There is high demand of Namibian craft with tourists and in Europe. But due lack of resources and skills, market is limited. Total incomegenerated in craft industry annually in Namibia is approx 12 corer INR to which my region might have only 3-5% of the share. My role here is to review and provide marketing support the on goingcraft business. In total I am working with 25 activities related to tourism, craft or natural product in 10 conservancies. This involves lot of coordination, communication and facilitation. Theconservancy committees are governed under democratic institutional governance. They have toreport back to community on there workings in general meeting (GM) and annual general meeting(AGM). My other responsibility includes support committees to prepare there financial and budget report for these meetings. These GMs and AGMs are kind of village panchayat meetings in Indiabut difference is community people are more powerful than committees of conservancies. Although committees are given charge to govern the conservancy but they have to answer to all questions posed by communities during the meetings regarding finance, Natural resource,governance, operational issues etc. Which is very interesting learning for me and we often helpthem as external election commission to conduct democratic elections to elect committeemembers from communities. When ever I have to facilitate training, provide suggestions or advicesthen I always take in consideration the nature conservation aspect. There has been many article published in Namibian national news paper about our work and appreciation from EC and Government of Namibia. At the end of the day, I feel there is a challenge of developing skilled human resource in this country. Other wise there are lots of opportunity for development. In theSouthern African region, Namibia has the best CBNRM practices. Often we receive visitors from
iVolunteer Overseas
D-134, First Floor, East of KailashNew Delhi-110065Tel.: +91 11-26217459Email : vso@ivolunteer.inWebsite: www.ivoindia.org
other countries to visit conservancies in Namibia for study and replicating the same in their counties.
It was my first journey abroad and I always dreamed of going to Africa since my university days. 14hours on flight to Namibia was in it self an experience. Namibia looked just like what I saw onGoogle Earth. Vast yellow desert land and not a single building I could spot while landing onInternational airport, it crossed my mind that are we doing an emergency landing!I marched my way out of airport and spotted ourprogram officer from VSO Namibia. I still remember itwas Sunday and he specially came to pick us upcovering 60 km from Windhoek city. Whileapproaching the city, we where surprised to seealmost no one on the road and very few cars andpeople in the Windhoek city. I was no doubt bitconfused, is there anyone living in this city or its justdesert as it looked on Google Earth. Thankfully, wespotted lots of people around on Monday. Namibianpopulation is 2 million and it size is almost 1/5
of India. Windhoek has approx 2 lakh population and it isthe capital of the country. No doubt it was a challenge and I accepted it. The first week was goodand easy as I was with another Indian and introduction training from VSO Namibia office wasexcellent. I was the 3
Indian volunteer to get placement in Namibia and the other two lady Indianvolunteers where working since a year before our arrival. Thankfully one of them was based inWindhoek who helped us a lot to understand the culture, tradition and system of the country. Imust tell you that life becomes much easier when you find someone from home to guide you inforeign place.Before coming to Africa I was judgmental, had strong opinions based on Indian media, use to havelots of racial thoughts in my public communication and everything is wrong which is illegal orerroneous according to Indian Law or Hindu philosophy. Well my perception and outlook of lifehas changed.VSO Namibia has almost 80 volunteers in country at any given point of time from Europe, NorthAmerica, East Africa, Asia and Australia. Although majority of them are from UK. Most of thevolunteers who are here for 2 year placement are much more matured than me but I have lots of friends of my age group because I am a social geek. Apart from Namibian and VSO volunteers Ihave friends from Peace Core, UN volunteers, Self volunteers and other organization volunteers aswell. This whole international community of friends makes life incredibly spicy and exciting. I mustsay I have gained wonderful friends from round the world. Due to living in this diverse social circleI have started perceiving life differently. I can now understand others point of view better and Ihave stopped being judgmental. My opinions are now not biased or racial and are culturallysensitive. My enhanced knowledge of culture, traditions and system from around the world mademe not only professional better skilled in an international arena rather understand the meaning of life better.There had been moments when I stayed in temporary housing for 10 months because my
placement agency couldn’t find house in field and the pace of working style here make you much

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