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Dr Margaret Jacobsohn is a Namibian writer, anthropologist and community-based conservation specialist. The Namibian NGO and trust that she co-founded with Garth Owen-Smith in the late 1980s pioneered successful community conservation at a time when this approach was regarded as lunatic fringe. Today this small pilot project is a vigorous national programme of 80-plus communal area conservancies which, with Namibia's national parks, has doubled land under wildlife conservation status to more than 40% of Namibia. Communities are earning more than N$110 million a year from community conservation and more than 5 000 jobs have been created.
MJ is an authority on the social organisation and cultural economy of the semi-nomadic Himba people of Namibia and Angola. Her PhD thesis was based on more than five years of living and working with remote Himba communities. Apart from numerous articles and book chapters on aspects of community-based conservation, she is the author of Himba, Nomads of Namibia (Struik, 1990). She has published short story fiction, including a story in Jacana's 2011 African Pens collection. For the past four years MJ has helped mentor and run a small up-market mobile safari company, Conservancy Safaris Namibia (CSN), which is owned by five Himba and Herero communities through their conservancies in Namibia's far north-west. CSN pioneers a new model of socially responsible tourism in Namibia, which combines the key elements that underlie community-based conservation successes: community ownership, direct involvement and social as well as economic benefits. MJ has won some of the world's top conservation awards for her work, including the US Goldman Grassroots Environmental Prize for Africa (jointly with Garth Owen-Smith), the United Nations Global 500 award, WWF Netherlands's Knights of the Order of the Golden Ark and the Cheetah Conservation Foundation's Special Conservation award. These awards, including the recent Prince William Lifetime Conservation Award to Garth Owen-Smith, ensure more media attention than usual for anything they write.
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