Max Muyemburuko

Chairperson, Muduva Nyangana Conservancy

    “My vision for Namibia is to focus on maintaining the environment in a sustainable manner and also to create solutions to climate change,” says Max Muyemburuko. “In Namibia, we are facing the consequences of global warming. You will see now here and there, there is flooding, then drought, and the rainy season and the capacity of the rain that we receive now is also changed.”

    Max is the chairperson for both the Muduva Nyangana Conservancy and Kavango East and West Regional Conservancy in Namibia, where Canadian company ReconAfrica is drilling for oil and gas. He has been a vocal advocate for the environment and rights of the people of the Kavango region since before the first bulldozers for ReconAfrica rolled into the Okavango River Basin.

    In the fight against oil development in the Okavango, Max has been a consistently powerful voice. He first became aware of ReconAfrica’s presence in the region in November 2020. As a community leader, he collects reports about ReconAfrica’s activities from local people and spreads awareness, working to ensure the concerns of communities up and down the Okavango River Basin are heard regionally and abroad.

    For Max, protecting the Okavango and speaking up against ReconAfrica is also about protecting people. He has a personal tie to these lands, because he works and lives here, but also because this is where Max grew up.

    He was born in a village where people have built their homes right out of the Earth for thousands of years. It was from his father, he says, who learned from his father, about the importance of wildlife to intact ecosystems: how the animals perpetuate the continuation of life in the Okavango by eating the leaves and the seeds of plants and native grasses, which germinate in soil fertilized by their dung.

    “They taught me that without wildlife, we people also suffer,” Max says.

    In the Okavango River Basin, where the nearest hospital is often many miles away, local people rely heavily on plantlife for traditional medicine. In cases of serious injury or illness, the local ecosystem is often a lifeline for First Aid before an ambulance can arrive to carry the injured person to the clinic. This is just one of the reasons the people in the Kavango are concerned about the ReconAfrica’s oil exploration in the region – if something happens to damage or compromise the delicate ecology in this part of the world where so much life depends on the Okavango watershed, those medicines could be lost.

    Instead of oil, Max wants the Namibian government to invest in renewable energy sources.

    “If we can conserve our environment and our ecosystems,” Max says, “if we have a vision for a clear environment, it will lower emissions that contribute to climate change. That is my vision. We have to invest in renewable sources of energy to reduce the impact of global warming.”

    Max's activism earned him Namibia's Conservationist of the Year Award in 2022.