Nick De Goede – Leading the Way for Transfrontier Conservation Areas in Southern Africa

14 September 2014


Nick de Goede is the Park Manager for /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (ARTP), on the Republic of South Africa side. He is one of the champions working in African protected areas that the IUCN Programme on African Protected Areas and Conservation, in collaboration with BIOPAMA (Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Programme), AFD (French Agency for Development) and FIBA (Fondation international pour le Banc d’Arguin), is supporting to deliver the African messages at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014.

Nick has been working in conservation management and with transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) for 21 years. Before joining the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld team, where he has been for five years, he worked for the Natal Parks Board for 16 years and then for Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife. Here he worked on both the Maloti-Drakensberg and the Usuthu-Tembe-Futi area within Lubombo transfrontalier conservation area.

Nick’s responsibilities at the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park are varied and include conservation, technical services, human resources, administration and tourism. Under his management, the Park has registered many success stories in protected areas management, financing, capacity building and species protection.

The /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park has been voted as the best operational and fully functional Transfrontier Park in South Africa for the last years. The treaty for the establishment of the Transfrontalier Park was signed in 2003 between the presidents of South Africa and Namibia. But only in 2011 all the governance structures were put in place, with the support and dedication of the staff working on the ground.

The ARTP was also the first to have a fully functional cross border radio communication system. Nick explains: “It was said that it is not possible to have a cross border radio license but the ARTP got one from both authorities in South Africa and Namibia with the same frequency. It has assisted in mountain rescues, law enforcement patrols, kayak trails and other tourism products. We are very proud of this achievement as this has paved the way for other TFCAs in Africa. The Nama communities were divided by the international border, but the ARTP has broken down the barrier and has reconnected relatives.  The staff have also bought in to the Transfrontier Park as it has shown to be a positive for them from a whole array of aspects. The most important ingredient to success is to make everyone feel that they are part of such a very successful park.”

One of the great success stories of the ARTP is the stopping of fish poaching along the Orange River, which forms the international border between South Africa and Namibia. Through combined patrols from both countries, which includes park rangers and police the poaching has come to a complete halt. 

The extensive cross border training for building the capacity of the park’s staff is among Nick’s responsibilities, as manager of the park.  A Wilderness search and rescue course was done and staff got trained in all aspects as well as cliff rescues with ropes.  Other trainings include geology, bird identification, GIS (Geographic information system), plant identification, skippers and tourism front office and housekeeping.

An innovative idea to generate some much-needed funds for cross border operations in the park was the development of several marketing strategies. The ARTP is implementing every year the Desert Knights mountain bike tour, a 6 day bike tour that starts in Namibia and ends in South Africa, and is in the process of establishing the Desert Kayak trails, a 4 day trip along the Orange River. “We are very proud of all our achievements over the last couple of years and it has shown that the idea of a TFCA can really work on the ground and can be a huge benefit for conservation in future”, Nick says.

Nick was rewarded for all his hard work by the South African National Parks (SANParks) at their 9th Annual Kudu Awards Ceremony held on Friday 1 November 2013. With this occasion, Nick received the Chief Executive Award for Overall Best Performer in SANParks. He is also the 2011 and 2012 winner of the regional award for the Park Manager of the year, and in 2012 he received the award for the Park of the year.

For the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, Nick’s objective is to show that Transfrontier conservation has gone from an ideal vision to concrete reality. “We have gone through a learning curve and other conservation areas could learn from the progress we have made over the last couple of years. It is the way for the future for conservation to be sustainable” Nick added. Several sessions on the governance of transfrontier conservation areas will be organized at the IUCN WPC, as part of Stream 6: Enhancing Diversity and Quality of Governance”. The success story of the two government-managed protected areas that are working together across boundaries and forming the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park will be part of the programme.

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