Manni Goldbeck discusses Gondwana’s ten most important achievements.
During the Gondwana Collection Namibia’s 25th anniversary year we celebrate the rich history of the company. We recall the inspiring, interesting, humorous and heart-warming stories that have shaped the company. While we are sharing these fascinating stories, Gondwana’s CEO Gys Joubert and Media Coordinator Ndinelao Shikemeni sit down with founder Manni Goldbeck to take a walk down memory lane and find out what he sees as the company’s ten most important achievements.
Gys begins the discussion today about ‘Communities’ and the ‘Gondwana Care Trust’, continuing the topic of sustainability discussed on Sunday:
“It’s the Gondwana team’s conviction that tourism is only sustainable if it is inclusive, Manni. The company has grown a harmonious relationship with the local communities and conservancies over the two and a half decades of its existence. Can you tell us about this?”
“Certainly, Gys. Namibia is known for its large protected areas and the communities play a significant part in most of them. Namibia is proud to have almost 40% of its land under environmental protection, and this includes conservancy land. Much of this conservancy land is very beautiful and contains some of Namibia’s most unique attractions, yet only a small percentage of bed nights in conservancy areas stem from mainstream tourism. For the last decade and a half Gondwana has been striving to help rectify this imbalance by involving the local communities and conservancies in benefit sharing, social upliftment and development, and, importantly, by providing job creation. Six of Gondwana’s lodges form part of joint-venture partnerships with conservancies, and one lodge is on communal land. We have set up a community development fund with the community, who we are directly involved with. A third of our workforce comes from these areas. It is important to us that our relationship is a win-win situation for all, a synergy where everyone benefits. Gondwana is one of the largest contributors to community areas across the country, which also makes us the biggest private sector investor in the Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme.”
“As an Oshiwambo speaker, with my roots in the Owambo areas of northern Namibia, I am delighted with the joint-venture and Gondwana’s most recent lodge, Etosha King Nehale, positioned on the Andoni plains near Etosha’s northerly gate. I know that this has been a dream of yours for many years, Manni, can you elaborate?”
“Yes, Nela, for more than a decade I have wanted to bring the colourful world of Owambo into mainstream tourism. This dream has been realised through the impetus of our strong directorial team - Gys, Alain and Jaco - and backed by the board and shareholders, with the establishment of Etosha King Nehale.
“Besides introducing the area to mainstream tourism, the lodge is in a prime position, providing an attractive base north of Etosha for those travellers continuing on to the Kunene Region in the west or Kavango and Zambezi regions to the east. I see it as springboard or gateway to these northern regions. A good network of tarred roads radiates out from there, enabling easy access to all of the adjacent regions.
“I understand that the lodge opened during 2020 when many other lodges were closing their doors?”
“Yes, job creation means a lot to the community as do the benefits for the conservancy. We decided to go ahead with opening the lodge as soon as the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted as we felt that we had the support from locals and our Gondwana Card holders. We will still hold the official opening later in the year. We also published the book ‘Discover the colourful world of Owambo’ written by Willie Olivier, which is a detailed guidebook offering wonderful insight into the Oshiwambo culture.”
“Gondwana has reached out to Namibian communities with the project ‘MealForTwo’, Manni, which was your brainchild. Could you tell us what it entails?”
“My idea for ‘MealForTwo’ was that every time a guest enjoys a meal with us, a meal is sponsored for someone less fortunate. It has been a successful project, for which we have partnered with Bank Windhoek.
“MealForTwo is part of the larger Gondwana Care Trust. A long time ago we started providing support to kindergartens and marginalised groups, and providing soup kitchens with meat and produce from our Self-sufficiency Centre in Stampriet. The ‘Gondwana Care Trust’, initially started by staff members on their own initiative, was formalised under Gys’s leadership in 2017. In the last fifteen months more than 200 000 meals were provided to those in need and the trust acquired a permit to operate during the lockdown period as an essential service distributing food and hygiene products. I must applaud the Gondwana Care Trust manager, Dgini Visser, and her team, who successfully co-ordinate these projects. The trust has a large reach countrywide with many people benefitting, from street vendors to the elderly. The annual Back to School Christmas Bag Project reached 2 457 children. Even in the last challenging year, Gondwana has taken an active part in social responsibility to care and share. It’s a huge achievement.”
“Can you give us an example of how the communities neighbouring the lodges benefit?”
Besides the percentage from bed nights, which the community receives, and the infrastructure established by the lodges, there is the construction and funding of kindergartens and schools, fresh-water installations, guide-training courses, as well as environmental awareness and cancer association outreach programmes. The trust, thanks to Gys - and the spirit he has imbued in it - and Dgini and her team, has become almost a movement of its own. At the lodges the staff are actively involved with the communities and the projects. It is so wonderful to see. This is what Gondwana is about.
“The Gondwana Care Trust has also been involved with the Sikunga Fish Protection Project, with the support of FNB Namibia and the FirstRand Namibia Foundation Trust, where Sikunga Fish guards protect a stretch of the Zambezi River to allow undisturbed breeding to regenerate fish stocks in the region. Gondwana has also appointed a dedicated Community Liaison Officer for the Zambezi and Kavango regions.”
Ndinelao concludes the discussion, which will be shared with Gondwana friends and resumed on Thursday:
“I wish we could spend more time discussing this subject further, but for now, Manni, would you like to add a final word?”
“Yes, Nela, this is an area that is very close to all our hearts. I always appreciate the definition of the word ‘synergy’, which stems from the Greek word ‘working together’: ‘Synergy is an interaction or cooperation giving rise to a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.’ It is my belief that when we all cooperate and work as one, we can be so much more than when we stand on our own. Our community initiatives are testament to this.
Gys signs off:
“Yes. Tourism is only sustainable if it is inclusive. Thank you, Manni.”
“Thank you, looking forward to continuing our conversation on Thursday.”
Engaging conversations (ltr): Gys Joubert (Gondwana’s Managing Director), Ndinelao Shikemeni (Media Coordinator) and Manni Goldbeck (Brand & Marketing Director).