The ‘father of Namibian conservation’ who was also a hero for the planet
Pioneer of the conservancy system, SA-born Garth Owen-Smith believed local tribes owned their wildlife
Garth Owen-Smith, who has died at the age of 76, was an environmentalist who has been called the father of Namibian conservation. An early pioneer of the community conservancy system in Africa, he initiated it in Namibia, empowering communities to become involved in the management of their land and protection of their wildlife and therefore reap benefit from it.
Owen-Smith passionately believed that local people owned their wildlife, at a time when animals and land were the property of the state and conservation the domain of white government officials.
His patch was the Kaokoveld in northwest Namibia (later called Kunene). In 2010 he published an autobiography, An Arid Eden: A Personal Account of Conservation in the Kaokoveld, in which he wrote: “Conserving our natural environment will not make you materially rich, but there is no greater satisfaction than having made our planet a better place to live on, even if it is just in a very small way.”..