“Be the Change you want to see in the World”
HOW IT ALL BEGAN….
The story of AfriCat is inextricably linked to that of the Hanssen family.
Just as other individuals arrived in lands which became part of their blood, and rose to be giants in conserving and protecting that around them, so the Hanssens have become embedded with the Carnivore conservation effort in Namibia.
After farming on the Hanssen family cattle ranch in the Khomas Hochland area, south west of Windhoek for many years, Val and Rose Hanssen, settled on a central Namibian farm called Okonjima in 1970. The family set about making this their home, and continued to make their living raising Brahman cattle. As for many farmers, their cattle grazed the plains, they endured losses from carnivores, and supplemented their income by taking individual Trophy Hunters out across their acreage.
Running parallel with this, parents VJ and Rose, along with the Hanssen siblings (Wayne and his sisters, Tammy, Roselea and Donna) grew up surrounded by cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas , pangolins and other wildlife which led to an extraordinary opportunity to observe and understand.
The accepted practice of mitigating their farming losses by trapping, shooting and hunting leopards made little impact. Losses of 20 to 30 cows per year decimated their herds and caused huge financial losses, a situation that impacted smaller, traditional farmers even more.
Observing this cycle, the decimation, the death, the losses, the degradation of the land, the consistent grind of farming life, and the horrendous destruction of the large Carnivores, son Wayne committed to do better.
To rethink. To restore. To walk in tandem with the land and with wildlife rather than dominate. To find a permanent solution for the farmers AND for the Carnivores.
In other words, to create a symbiotic relationship, which benefits all who live on that Namibian land.
Through diligent, committed hard work, the Hanssens switched their focus from farming Okonjima to the creation of a large 200 km2 private nature reserve.
Their goal was to restore the land to what it once looked like, before farming methods destroyed it through lack of understanding its’ fragile nature, and to protect cheetahs and leopards from destruction.
To both finance this, and to educate, they decided to bring interested people to join and see.
They began simply, and invited people to stay at their converted farmhouse – at that time also home to some rescued cheetahs – and from there it has grown and grown…
Okonjima Nature Reserve, today, is recognized as one of The premier places to stay to witness large carnivores in the wild and to be educated about conservation. Its’ emphasis on authenticity, on luxury and on the environment has made it a jewel in Namibian tourism.
Part of the symbiotic relationship is that monies raised through the Okonjima Nature Reserve help to fund the important research, community support programmes and education projects with which the Hanssens are also engaged, under the banner of AfriCat.
The AfriCat Foundation was born in the early 1990’s, a Namibia registered non-profit organization which started out primarily as a welfare organization, and has since become focused on educating Namibia’s young farmers and school children, communal carnivore conservation, and on research projects which are essential in accomplishing its mission of the long term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores in their natural habitat.
This symbiotic relationship which exists between the AfriCat Foundation and the Okonjima Nature Reserve is imperative to the continued survival of both – without education, research and the mitigation of farmer-predator conflict throughout Namibia, the essential conservation of large carnivores would falter … Equally, without the partial financial support contributed by the visitors who stay at the Okonjima Nature Reserve, neither would survive!
Wayne, Donna and Roselea continue to be involved and committed to the Okonjima Nature Reserve, home to the AfriCat headquarters, as well as having oversight of the lodges and the management of its’ land.
Tammy heads up her latest organisation known as Namibian Lion Trust, which is based on the South Western border of the Etosha National Park, committed to the preservation of the Namibian Lion. A central focus of Namibian Lion Trust is the mitigation of Human-Wildlife Conflict on communal and freehold farmland.
The Hanssen family is no longer 2 parents with their 4 children, but now also comprises the next generation… all of whom are being raised on this Namibian land. Its’ very special and specific needs have been faced full on by this extraordinary family over the past 40 years, and their goals remain the same. To —– “BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD”….