NUST researchers and students from the Faculty of Natural Resources and Spatial Sciences and the Faculty of Computing and Informatics have partnered with the Angolan Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educaçã da Huíla (ISCED). Associated with the two institutions over the past three years are the Environment Ministries from both countries, the Iona Park Management, individual international conservation experts, conservancies and local communities in both countries.
Speaking at the fair, NUST’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Prof Pramanathan Govender, revealed that wildlife populations in the Skeleton Coast Park and the adjacent conservancies have increased over the last 40 years. “The park is rich in biodiversity and endemic plants, which offer multiple scientific and economic opportunities. It is, therefore, imperative to work as a multi-national transdisciplinary team to tackle local challenges while contributing to global solutions,” Prof Govender explained.
EU Head of the Cooperation Section, Achim Schaffert, said that the project builds on the Namibian experiences with community involvement in ecotourism and conservation. “The Knowledge Fair is a major event that brings together community members, researchers and other key stakeholders to exchange knowledge on how to jointly realise sustainable ecosystem management for the new Iona Skeleton Coast Transfrontier Park,” Schaffert elaborated.
Participants were afforded the opportunity to enhance their indigenous knowledge perspective and learn about the use of camera traps, soil or vegetation maps and wildlife counts. “I am pleased to have seen the application of drones, virtual reality and the deployment of co-designed mobile applications to support a more effective ecosystem management,” Prof Govender said.
The SCIONA Knowledge Fair hosted activities such as walkshops, which are community-led river and ethnobotanical walks; workshops and trainings of skills and competencies related to natural resource conservation; and academic presentations.