Sustainability - Gondwana Collection

Sustainability

Sustainability is our philosophy

The Gondwana Collection Namibia combines its hospitality business with nature conservation and social commitment in a sustainable manner. Ever since we started in 1995 we bought farms in the vicinity of natural attractions, converted the farms into nature reserves and reintroduced game species which had once been indigenous to the area. Nature conservation is financed with the proceeds from the eco-friendly hospitality business, which in turn creates jobs and career opportunities for the local population. This success story gave us the opportunity to expand our business in tourism and with it our employment base as well as intensifying our social engagement. 

Our commitment to nature conservation comes a long way

At the beginning of the 1990s the land bordering the Fish River Canyon was overgrazed and barren. At the tail end of years of severe drought farmers were putting their farms up for sale, seeking greener pastures.

A group of Namibian businessmen sharing strong conservation ethics discovered the potential of a piece of land bordering the eastern section of the Fish River Canyon, that was previously owned by several different farmers. When the businessmen bought this overgrazed farm with the intention to develop tourism activities and create a conservation area, it was evident that intensive farming practices were not sustainable in the long run. Ecotourism was the only sustainable form of land use with the potential to balance the scales and restore the wildlife and vegetation, while nurturing the land. It would ultimately fund a larger conservation area.

The vision matured over the subsequent years. Adjoining farms were acquired and the concept of a large protected area was developed. Gondwana Canyon Park expanded to an enormous area of 1260 square kilometres (126,000 hectares).

Research was carried out to establish which animals occurred historically in the area, after which red hartebeest, wildebeest, plains zebra and giraffe were gradually reintroduced. A scientifically-sound game management programme resulted in increasing the number of diverse species and restoring nature’s original state as far as possible. It was, and still is, monitored by qualified gamekeepers and rangers.

All fences inside Gondwana Canyon Park have been removed. Since migration is a vital survival mechanism of game animals in arid regions, a series of meetings with landowners and trustees, including the neighbouring Ai-Ais/Fish River Canyon National Park, was initiated to establish an expanded, jointly managed Fish River Canyon Complex.

Two other nature reserves belonging to Gondwana Collection are managed according to the same concept: Gondwana Kalahari Park (98 km²) northeast of Mariental and Gondwana Namib Park (127 km²) north of Sesriem/Sossusvlei. Another one of our nature parks is the Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park (510 km²) of our marketing partner Klein-Aus Vista in the far south of Namibia near Aus.

In 2019, Gondwana took over Palmwag Lodge & Camp and with it the management of the Palmwag concession area, a vast nature reserve that covers 5,500 km². The Palmwag Concession consists of the Torra, Anabeb and Sesfontein conservancies and borders the Skeleton Coast Park. With over 100 lions, cheetahs, leopards and brown and spotted hyenas, Palmwag’s predator population is the largest outside Etosha National Park. Birdlife is prolific and diverse, and most of Namibia's endemic species are found there. The Palmwag Concession is home to a healthy population of the desert-adapted elephant and black rhino.

Gondwana has a green heart

During the past years our efforts to run our lodges in a sustainable manner were repeatedly acknowledged with the highest seal of quality awarded by the environmental initiative Eco Awards Namibia. Similar to the star-rating system for tourist accommodation, Eco Awards Namibia awards up to five flowers for environmental sustainability. The participation in the Eco Awards programme is voluntary. Currently, ten of the Gondwana Lodges have a five eco flower rating and received excellent scores in terms of conservation and guiding, energy, water, legal compliance as well as staff and health, amongst other categories. Other lodges that previously received a three or four flower rating are due for a new review. 

360 days of sunshine – excellent conditions for solar energy

In 2014, Gondwana started a pilot project in the oldest desert on earth and installed 1,700 solar panels on the roofs of the main building and guest chalets of the Namib Desert Lodge, covering 50 percent of the lodge’s energy needs. Our country certainly has no lack of sunshine, but a solar power plant of this size has never before been taken into operation under extreme desert conditions.

Since then Gondwana has embarked on an initiative to roll out solar energy plants at all its lodges. So far, solar plants have been installed at The Desert Grace, Damara Mopane Lodge, Etosha Safari Lodge and Camp, Kalahari Anib Lodge and Kalahari Farmhouse and at the three lodges in the Gondwana Canyon Park, namely Canyon Lodge, Canyon Village and Canyon Roadhouse. The excess energy is fed into the main supply system operated by Namibia’s national power utility NamPower.

Sparing use of precious water

Most of our lodges are equipped with wastewater recycling plants. The wastewater is filtered and then used to irrigate the lodges’ gardens, boasting indigenous trees and shrubs. This reduces overall water consumption by more than half.

We go the extra proverbial mile to keep consumption as low as possible, also by sensitising guests to use water sparingly. Every little drop counts!

It’sUp2Us - Responsible Waste Management

A lot of effort goes into minimising non-recyclable materials at our lodges and implementing sustainable measures to ensure proper waste management. All our lodges countrywide are to eliminate single-use plastics as far as practically possible. All waste from lodges is separated according to materials; glass is crushed, sheet metal is pressed. In partnership with Rent-A-Drum, Gondwana disposes of waste in an environmentally sustainable manner. The bulk of this waste is recycled, while the rest is used to produce refuse-derived fuel.

In 2018, Gondwana and Rent-A-Drum launched the #ItsUp2Us campaign with the aim that only biodegradable waste ends up at dumping grounds. The campaign is intended to raise environmental awareness among all Namibians. Furthermore, Gondwana arranges courses for the staff on environmental protection on a regular basis and supports the clean-up campaigns of communities in the vicinity of our lodges.

Sustainable construction methods for our new lodges

Our latest lodges, The Desert Grace and Etosha King Nehale, were built using a unique environmentally-friendly construction method. The main buildings were built with sandbags that were filled on site. The natural building material has excellent sound and thermal insulation qualities.

The walkways of The Desert Grace are made from recycled glass. Gondwana uses glass crushing machines to recycle the glass waste from our lodges, thereby reducing pollution. For the construction of the walkways at The Desert Grace we recycled over 200 tons of used glass bottles! 

Staff development – Together we are strong

In 2017 the Gondwana Training Academy opened its doors. The lodge group’s hospitality training and leadership development programme aims to provide service excellence, thereby promoting Namibia as a top African tourist destination. Course content includes introductory training in tourism and specific professional skills as well as critical softer skills such as appreciation marketing, leadership development and communication.

The Gondwana Training Academy is based at the Kalahari Farmhouse in Stampriet. Training takes place in the first three months of the year. During the remaining months the Farmhouse is open for guests.

Gondwana also conducts in-house training programmes at the respective lodges.

Gondwana Care Trust – Sharing our hearts

Gondwana lodges are in close connection to their surrounding communities. Our commitment to social responsibility and community support stand fundamental in our philosophy. We have always strived to make a positive difference in our environment and communities. Several years ago, the “Gondwana Memes & Tates”, a group of dedicated colleagues, started supporting selected charities to ensure that they reach those in need. 

Encouraged by the great success, we have formalised this important focus by establishing the Gondwana Care Trust in 2017 - a dedicated Corporate Social Initiative (CSI) fund. The Gondwana Care Trust currently supports more than 20 projects across Namibia. Our efforts include the donation of food, clothing, bedding, and educational materials for schools, as well as the support of important environmental causes. The Trust wants to raise public awareness of its projects and to provide a channel for other like-minded people and businesses to get involved.

Our commitment to social upliftment is also visible in the wide range of Namibian products in our lodges’ souvenir shops and in the joint projects with local communities.

Self-sustaining supply of organic meat and fresh veggies

Guests at our lodges always marvel at the appetising buffets with large selections of fresh salads, dairy and meat products. Our secret is Gondwana Self-Sufficiency Centre (SSC). It is a farming operation which includes chickens, pigs and cattle as well as hothouses. The centre has its own on-site butchery and smokehouse.

The SSC near the village Stampriet forms part of the Kalahari Farmhouse, one of the smaller Gondwana lodges. Owing to the ready supply of water by a multi-layered aquifer system, Stampriet is the perfect location for the SSC. From here all of Gondwana's accommodation establishments are supplied with fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as organic cuts of meat. Furthermore, it provides much needed employment for locals.

Furthermore, all Gondwana lodges are encouraged to establish self-sufficiency gardens to cater for their basic fresh fruit and vegetable needs. The size and design of the garden depends on the property. At Damara Mopane Lodge, each guest room as its own vegetable garden, which supplies 80% of the lodge’s required produce. Namib Desert Lodge and Canyon Lodge have netted tunnels where herbs, tomatoes, lettuce and cabbage are grown. Zambezi Mubala Lodge has an aquaponics tank for supplying guests with herbs and lettuce. Thus, the lodges can reduce the carbon footprint that comes with store-bought vegetables’ packaging and transport.

Cooperation with conservancies and communities in communal areas

In recent years, Gondwana expanded its reach into the communal areas in the northern and north-eastern parts of the country. A lot of work has been put into building equitable and sustainable partnerships with the conservancies and communities we operate in. Joint venture agreements ensure that a fair share of the financial benefits derived from the Gondwana lodges go to the respective conservancies and local communities. It also ensures local employment and empowerment, based on a sound Conservancy Employment and Skill Development Plan. Our lodges in communal areas are

Small things also matter

Visiting researchers to the Gondwana Canyon Park along with the park management were recently treated to a very rare and wonderful sighting of the shy black-footed cat in the Gondwana Canyon Park. The last recorded sighting of this cat in Namibia dates back several decades. This sighting is a compliment to the conservation efforts that were the initial reason for Gondwana Collection Namibia’s establishment.

In the ever-growing battle against global warming as a result of human-induced carbon emissions, planting trees to compensate for the excess carbon in the atmosphere is vitally important. Gondwana has introduced the annual Plant-a-tree Day and managed to plant about 200 trees in 2018/19. We have cultivated over 80 quiver trees at the Holoog Nursery, situated in Gondwana Canyon Park. As soon as they were big enough, they were then planted in the wild.

Gondwana promotes a healthy lifestyle amongst its staff and supports the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN). Every year, a professional CAN team tours the country as part of their National Outreach programme providing health education and valuable advice on healthy lifestyles. The CAN team also offers cancer screening at the lodges as well as at nearby villages and settlements.

Gondwana Collection has partnered with BEE Biofuel Manufacturing Namibia to recycle all used cooking oil from the lodges. In 2018, we have managed to recycle up to 2,000 litres of used cooking oil.

To reduce the use of plastic bottles, we installed water dispensers at Hakusembe River Lodge and Zambezi Mubala Lodge. The dispensers provide unbottled filtered water to guests. We plan to install more at other lodges. Sustainable reusable bottles and reusable Silistraws are available at the lodge’s souvenir shops.

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