People-Centered and Ecosystem-Based Knowledge Co-Production to Promote Proactive Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development in Namibia
Growing levels of uncertainty and vulnerability generated by land use conversion and climate change set demands on local communities and national institutions to build synergies between the diverse array of knowledge systems in order to provide policy makers and practitioners with the best available information to decide what urgent actions must be taken. Science policy arenas and agreements such as the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognize the importance of different types of knowledge and the need for broad stakeholder involvement, yet the use of indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) in environmental decision-making processes is still underdeveloped. This study involved working with local stakeholders, using the MARISCO method (adaptive MAnagement of vulnerability and RISks at COnservation sites) to carry out a systematic situation analysis of the existing socioenvironmental conditions. The assessments were conducted in the Kavango East Region in northern Namibia with the participation of inhabitants of the Khaudum North Complex, a protected area network covering wooded savannahs belonging to the Northern Kalahari sandveld. General outcomes of the assessments and evaluations made by the local stakeholders concerning the most critical drivers of degradation of the ecosystems appeared to support existing scientific knowledge of the study area, demonstrating that community-based assessments can provide valuable information about socioecological systems where scientific data are scarce. The findings of this study also highlight the importance of power dynamics for the implementation of participatory processes and the interpretation of their outcomes.