Sustainability - Gondwana Collection

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. In its third participation in the Eco Awards in 2017 the Namib Desert Lodge has set new standards with excellent results. The five desert flowers for Namib Desert Lodge represent the maximum score (100%) in terms of conservation and guiding, energy, water, staff and health, legal and NTB compliance as well as further excellent scores. 

Kalahari Anib Lodge was reassessed in 2018 and was also awarded five desert flowers (2 desert flowers in 2014). Furthermore Etosha Safari Lodge & Camp, Canyon Roadhouse, Canyon Village & Lodge and Namushasha River Lodge received the highest seal of quality. Hakusembe River Lodge participated in the Eco Awards for the first time in 2016 and instantly achieved an environmental compatibility rating of four desert flowers, the same applies to Damara Mopane Lodge (2015). 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 score 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 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 are also impressed by the health and training programmes for our staff 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 65 en-suite 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 another sustainable property to its family: Chobe River Camp is inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape, using an environmentally conscious design. Chalets have solar geysers for hot water.

Fewer empty bottles for a healthier environment

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. Each glass crusher machine can crush an estimated 120-150kg of glass per hour, grinding it into non-hazardous glass sand. The glass sand can be used for smaller building projects. Furthermore, 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.

In an effort to reduce and eventually eliminate plastic water bottles at our lodges, Gondwana contracted a local business – Dial a Water Namibia (commonly known as DAWN) to source a purified water vending machine. This self-help machine allows us to still sell purified water to our guests, but more importantly get rid of the loathed plastic bottles. 

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 SSC near the village Stampriet is surrounded by green fields. Cows watch your progress from both sides of the country lanes. Behind the pastures vineyards are spread out and make you wonder whether this oasis is in fact located in the Kalahari Desert. 

Stampriet’s abundant source of water is the multi-layered aquifer system, i.e. water-bearing rock, of the Stampriet Artesian Basin. An artesian well bubbles on Gondwana's 34 ha property, too. 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.

Staff development – Together we are strong

In 2017 the new Gondwana Training Academy opened its doors. The lodge group’s hospitality training and leadership development programme aims to provide service excellence and thereby promote Namibia as a top African tourist destination. The Gondwana Training 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. 

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 academy aims at increasing the skills of Gondwana staff. The intention is to also provide training to anybody aspiring to work in the hospitality industry. Ultimately, Gondwana aims to provide participants with recognised formal diplomas. 

Gondwana Care Trust – Sharing our hearts

Gondwana lodges are run as tight-knit groups with close connections to their surrounding communities. This makes our commitment to social responsibility and community support fundamental to the way our company is run as we have always strived to make a positive difference to our environment and communities. With the eager involvement of the “Gondwana Memes & Tates”, a group of dedicated men and women, we have supported many worthy initiatives over the years.

Encouraged by the success of these, we have formalized this important focus by establishing the Gondwana Care Trust in 2017 - a dedicated Corporate Social Initiative (CSI) fund. This formal operation will be responsible for the management of all CSI initiatives Gondwana is engaged in. The Gondwana Care Trust supports different projects across Namibia. Our efforts include; donation of food, clothing, bedding, educational products for schools, and support of important environmental causes, like the Wild Horses Foundation. By establishing the Trust, we hope to increase public awareness of these projects and to provide a channel for other like-minded people and businesses to get involved. If you are interested, please contact us

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.

Namushasha Heritage Centre

History was made on the banks of the Kwando River in February 2014 when the Gondwana Collection and Mashi community members opened the Namushasha Heritage Centre in a private sector-conservancy collaboration. Funded by the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and the Gondwana Collection, the Heritage Centre showcases the history and traditions of groups in the Eastern Caprivi region on information panels and with demonstrations of traditional song and dance, skills and crafts. 

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