Twyfelfontein: a World Heritage Site
Once a small dot on the Namibian map, Twyfelfontein in Kunene region has not only become the country's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2007, but is expected to popularise Namibia and attract tourists from all over the world to admire the thousands of historical rock art at the site.
Twyfelfontein is situated in a transitional zone between the Namib Desert and the semi-desert area in the Kunene region. It has a wide variety of rock arts which, date back between 2000 and 3000 years.
This site comprises roughly 2 500 rock engravings on 212 slabs of rock, as well as 13 panels containing a number of rock paintings, including the prehistoric rock carvings, with over 2 000 figures documented to date.
Its magnificent scenery attracts 95% of international tourists and 5% of local tourists.
Namibia is a state party to the World Heritage Convention of 1972, a rigid requirement for a member country, which intends to nominate a candidate site for inscription.
As required, Namibia had to submitted two motivational documents namely; the Nomination Dossier and the Property Management Plan for submission to UNESCO, to ensure the inscription of Twyfelfontein as its first World Heritage Site.
While the Nomination Dossier demonstrates the outstanding universal value of the property and whether or not the site has a proclaimed Buffer Zone and is protected under any national legislation, the Property Management Plan must answer questions relating to the management of a site.
Twyfelfontein has a defined buffer zone and is protected under section 54 of the National Heritage Act. The site has a buffer zone of 9194 hectares, and a core area of 57.4 hectares where most of the administrative work takes place. The core area accommodates visitor facilities, the information centre and the reception, toilets, a kiosk and viewing platforms. Currently there are 7 lodges within the Twyfelfontein buffer zone. Hence, illegal grazing and establishment of tourist developments in the core area of the site was prohibited, as these will damage the rocks panels, spoil the status of the shrine and interfere with the visitors' space.
Namibia, through the National Heritage Council, is busy working on another four sites, including Brandberg, the south of the Namib Desert, the Welwitschia plant and the Fish River Canyon, to be declared as world heritage monuments or sites.
To ensure consistent monitoring and preserve the rock arts panels at the site, UNESCO recommended that Namibia need to hire a Rock Art expert and train staff at the site to undertake assessments on the transformation of rock art panels.