Sustainability

Sustainability as a 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.   

A "Little Etosha" in southern Namibia

Twenty years ago the swathe of 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. By the time a group of Namibian businessmen with a strong conservation philosophy discovered the potential of a piece of land bordering the eastern section of the Fish River Canyon, the cycle of landowners had run its course.

When the businessmen bought an 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. They understood that the only sustainable form of land use with the potential to balance the scales and restore the wildlife and vegetation and nurture the land would be ecotourism, ultimately funding 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 encompass an enormous area of 1260 square kilometres (126,000 hectares).

Research was carried out to establish which animals occurred historically in the area and new stock of red hartebeest, wildebeest, plains zebra and giraffe were gradually re-introduced. A scientifically sound game management programme resulted in increasing the diversity of species and restoring nature’s original state as far as possible. It is monitored by qualified gamekeepers and rangers. All internal fences have been dismantled in Gondwana Canyon Park. Since migration is a vital survival mechanism of game animals in arid regions, a series of meetings with landowners and trustees, including neighbouring Ai-Ais/Fish River Canyon National Park, was initiated to establish an expanded, jointly managed Fish River Canyon Complex. 

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

Five flowers for "green" Gondwana Lodges

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. Five of our lodges have been reassessed in 2016 and were awarded five desert flowers which is the highest seal of quality. They are Etosha Safari Lodge & Camp, Canyon Roadhouse, Canyon Village and Canyon Lodge. Hakusembe River Lodge participated in the Eco Awards for the first time and instantly achieved an environmental compatibility rating of four desert flowers. 

More lodges of the Gondwana Collection will be reassessed for the Eco Awards, awaiting the visit of an evaluator. They are Namib Desert Lodge, Namushasha River Lodge (5 desert flowers each), Damara Mopane Lodge (4 flowers) as well as Kalahari Anib Lodge, Kalahari Farmhouse and Camp Chobe with two flowers each. Similar to the star-rating system for tourist accommodation, Eco Awards Namibia awards up to five flowers for environmental sustainability. Participation in the Eco Awards is voluntary. 

The lodges scored important points with their water recycling plants which provide irrigation for the gardens and thereby reduce overall water consumption by more than half. The gardens have largely been planted with indigenous trees, shrubs and succulents that thrive on small amounts of water. The lodges’ waste disposal also earned them points: waste is sorted into different materials, and efforts are made to dispose of it in an environmentally sustainable manner. Furthermore, the lodges are closely integrated into wildlife and landscape management. 

The experts and jury of the Eco Awards were also impressed by the staff training programmes which include courses on environmental awareness. Our commitment to social upliftment was praised as well. Among others, it is reflected in the broad range of Namibian products in the lodges’ souvenir shops and in the joint projects with local communities.

Solar energy in the Namib and at the Chobe River

The main building and chalets of Namib Desert Lodge are nestled against the fossilised dunes of the primeval Namib. The rooms are equipped with air-conditioners to ensure a pleasant stay. But despite all its mod cons Namib Desert Lodge is run in an eco-friendly manner. In 2014 a total of 1,700 solar panels were installed on the roofs of the guest chalets and several other buildings. They generate 200,000 kWh of electricity per year and cover 50% of the lodge’s energy needs. This is a pilot project in the Namibian tourism industry. Namibia 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. 

In March 2017 Gondwana welcomed the latest addition to its family: Camp Chobe is inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape, using an environmentally conscious design. All chalets have been constructed using indigenous Mopane timber and canvas. Chalets have solar lights and geysers for hot water.

Gondwana’s clean and green glass crushing machine

The Gondwana Collection has acquired glass crushing machines in 2016 in order to help cleaning up the environment and clearing it of glass litter as well as managing waste glass that originates from the Gondwana Lodges. The glass crushers were delivered to Namib Desert Lodge, Damara Mopane Lodge, Namushasha River Lodge, Etosha Safari Lodge and Camp and the Gondwana Canyon Park (Canyon Lodge, Canyon Village and Canyon Roadhouse).

Each glass crusher machine can crush an estimated 120-150kg of glass per hour, grinding it into non-hazardous glass sand: Glass sand can be mixed with cement and used for making decorative items and practical pieces like table tops and tiles. 
Furthermore, the glass sand can be used for making bricks. Gondwana hopes to become self-sufficient when smaller building projects are undertaken at the lodges.

This innovative technology could become a giant leap for Namibia in glass waste awareness and a cleaner environment. The glass crusher technology and the use of glass sand can become an income generator for disadvantaged and marginalized communities.

Self-Sufficiency Centre

Guests of our accommodation centres always marvel at the opulent and appetising buffets with their large selection of fresh salads, dairy and meat products. Our secret has a name: Gondwana Self-Sufficiency Centre (SSC). It is a farming operation which keeps chickens, pigs and cattle and also runs hothouses, a butchery and a smokehouse. 

The ready supply of water makes Stampriet the perfect location for the SSC, which supplies all of Gondwana's accommodation establishments with fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as cold meats and fresh cuts of meat. The SSC’s own production covers about 70 percent of the demand. What is more, it provides much-needed jobs.

Namushasha Heritage Centre

History was made on the banks of the Kwando River in 2014 when the Gondwana Collection and Mashi community members opened the Namushasha Heritage Centre in a private sector-conservancy collaboration. The Centre showcases the traditional culture and history of the Eastern Zambezi region (Caprivi) on information panels and with demonstrations of traditional song and dance, skills and crafts. A short walking trail runs along the river from Namushasha River Lodge to the Heritage Centre where information boards enlighten guests about the fauna and flora of the Zambezi region’s wetland system.

Staff development – Together we are strong

In 2017 the new Gondwana Training Academy opened its doors. The hospitality training and leadership development programme aims to provide service excellence and thereby promote Namibia as a top African tourist destination. The Academy is based in Stampriet at the Kalahari Farmhouse. Training takes place in the first half of the year. During the remaining months the Farmhouse is open for guests and the trainees will be able to apply their newly acquired skills and gain valuable hands-on experience. 

Course content will include introductory training in tourism and specific professional skills as well as critical softer skills such as appreciation marketing, leadership development and communication. While the academy will initially aim at increasing the skills of Gondwana staff, the intention is to also provide training anybody aspiring to work in the hospitality industry and to be an institution for leadership development where service professionals can further their skills. Ultimately, Gondwana aims to provide participants with recognised formal diplomas.

Fit & healthy – Joint venture with the Cancer Association

Gondwana promotes healthy lifestyles among its staff and as part of that supports the work of the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN). In 2016 a professional CAN team started touring the country as part of their National Outreach programme and visited our lodges to provide health education and valuable advice on healthy lifestyles. The CAN team also offered cancer screening at the lodges as well as nearby villages and settlements. This cooperation continues.

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