Exploring Ocean Benefits, Challenges and Prospects with Namibian Coastal Communities

By Sirkka Tshiningayamwe

Hub researchers at the University of Namibia have conducted a series of workshops to explore with coastal communities, and public and private sector stakeholders  what are ocean benefits, challenges and prospects. The workshops focused on the blue economy concept, ocean governance, opportunities available for local markets in coastal communities and ocean-related laws and regulations. These workshops were a continuation of fieldwork that focused on exploratory baseline information in December 2020. This blog post discusses the approach and findings of these workshops.

Participants

The workshops were diverse and inclusive, and followed participatory, interactive methods. They consisted of coastal community participants of different genders and age groups, representing different coastal community groups, associations, private and public sectors.

Topnaar community

The first workshops took place on the 17th November 2021 with the Topnaar community situated in Utuseb under the Walvis Bay local authority The Topnaar people were the first inhabitants documented to have settled in Walvis Bay near the Kuisib river in the early 1700s (Kinahan, 2017). Back then, their livelihoods depended strongly on ocean resources. They now reside in Utuseb, a settlement a few kilometres outside of Walvis-Bay. In a roundtable format, participants spoke about the ocean, how their forefathers connected to it and how they are connected to it. They expressed their views on ocean activities and how they now benefit or do not benefit from them. They further expressed their opinions regarding ocean governance, the blue economy and the regulatory frameworks. They called for changes in ocean laws and policies to include coastal communities.

Walvis-Bay community

The second workshop took place on the 19th November 2021 with the Walvis-Bay community. Walvis-Bay is a harbour town located on the west coast of Namibia. It is home to the largest port that incorporates numerous ocean activities. Walvis-Bay is also famous for its stunning dunes that meet the ocean on the coastline (Ship Technology, 2014). The Walvis-Bay workshop followed a focus group discussion approach with a twist. The participants were divided into three groups of 5 participants, and they tackled the workshop questions together. They had discussions and wrote their responses on flipchart papers. They then presented their results to the group, followed by a set of questions from the audience. The groups discussed what ‘small-scale fisher’ means to them, and known and unknown coastal activities in coastal towns. They further accentuated the importance of following laws set up to protect the ocean and the significance of implementing inclusive policies and benefit all stakeholders.

Swakopmund community

The third workshop took place on 22nd  November 2021 with the Swakopmund community. Swakopmund is located on the west coast of Namibia and is famous for its intrinsic architecture and tourist attractions (Ship Technology, 2014). The Swakopmund workshop followed a focus group discussion similar to that of the Topnaar community. The participants discussed all the known and prospective coastal activities available in coastal towns, as well as about the challenges that hinder coastal communities in participating in coastal activities. They underscored the lack of communication regarding vital ocean operations, and the importance of the multiple resources that coastal communities can benefit from the ocean; for example, they spoke about the significance of seaweed and how they can use it for numerous purposes. However, they require training to learn how to process the seaweed correctly.

Henties-Bay community

The fourth workshop took place on 24th November 2021 with the Henties-Bay community. Henties Bay is a small coastal town situated 70km north of Swakopmund. It is known for its attractive beaches, fishing activities, and large seal colony. The focus group discussion served to elaborate on the fishing-related challenges that small-scale fishers are facing. They highlighted that relying solely on fishing to support their livelihoods has been getting harder and harder over the years. They also underscored that more ocean activities should start taking place in Henties-Bay so that the younger generation can have more opportunities. The older participants also advised the younger participants to start looking at other opportunities for growth other than fishing to have more choices.

deritz community

The fifth workshop took place on 2nd December 2021 with the Lüderitz community. Lüderitz is located in the southern part of Namibia and is 394 km south of Oranjemund and the Vioolsdrift Border Control between Namibia and South Africa. Lüderitz’s port houses sea vessels and provides access to the Northern Cape of South Africa (Ship Technology, 2014). The Luderitz workshop followed a focus group discussion, and the participants spoke about upcoming ocean activities in Lüderitz. They discussed which ocean activities (Green hydrogen) fall under the umbrella of the blue economy, recommending that stakeholders and decision-makers heading blue economy projects should include community members and focus on the socio-economic development the upliftment of the town. They also discussed the impacts of current activities on the town and its inhabitants, and recommended that researchers, educational institutions, and the public and private sector incorporate indigenous knowledge systems .

Common concerns and expectations for a way forward

The coastal communities all expressed some similar ocean benefits and challenges. The table below presents the benefits and challenges brought forward and future prospects for coastal communities:

All of the participating towns agreed that there should be a platform that creates awareness about ocean knowledge, laws and policies, as well as proposed blue economy activities for all coastal communities and the Topnaar to be better informed about the importance of ocean conservation, sustainable development, the life cycle of different fish, and ocean litter, among other key areas. One participant specified that “people need to know the consequences of not conserving the ocean” for themselves, everyone else and future generations. Another participant asked a vital question: “How do we create awareness?”. A sustainable, inclusive method of creating awareness is needed to infuse education and change.

These questions are now shaping the One Ocean Hub’s research with coastal communities and the Topnaar over the next two years, with a view to supporting the development of a platform for subsequent decisions to be made by decision-makers on ocean management in a more participatory way. Hub researchers and partners are aiming to develop and pilot novel inclusive strategies to catalyse lasting collaborative relationships between the workshop participants and other community groups and associations.