Main photograph: Launch of the Guidelines for Management of Conservancies and the Standard Operating Procedures booklet.
By Jana-Mari Smith
The Namibian Conservancy programme – Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (
This statement was made by Pohamba Shifeta, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) at the official opening of the meeting of the Conservancy Chairperson Forum held in Windhoek for the past two days. (17 and 18 July 2014).
Conservancy representatives from all 79 communal conservancies attended the meeting in Windhoek, aimed at reviewing the past year of the conservancy programme and deciding on ways to improve the programme.
Shifeta announced that within a month, the number of conservancies will rise by two, namely the Luses and Nakabolewa conservancies to be gazetted at the start of August this year.
Shifeta emphasised the fact that the conservancy programme is “based on the understanding that if natural resources have sufficient value to rural communities, and allow for rights to use, benefit and manage, then appropriate incentives for people to use natural resources in a sustainable way will be created”. He said the programme can add considerably to Namibia’s overall conservation and development goals.
Since the launch of the conservancy programme 24 years ago, “many lessons have been learn” Shifeta said. A key lesson is that a “community based organisation requires a wide range of skills to address natural resource management, good governance and mapping enterprises or joint venture contracts”.
He said that it is important to “continue to develop our conservancies as a sustainable conservation and tourism development programme from which our rural communities can derive equitable social and economic benefits”.
Shifeta said it is important to be aware that “trophy hunting, lodge developments, game for shoot and sell, live game sales, game for own use and other game utilisation activities continue to be the main source of income for conservancies”.
Shifeta acknowledged that while the conservancy programme can be proud of many achievements and “significant success stories”, challenges remain and must be dealt “with right away”.
He noted that “our biggest challenge has probably been the recent illegal hunting of our elephants and rhinos, and we urgently need to bring this to a stop if it has not stopped yet”. He said that “as conservancies you have a bigger role to play in fighting against poaching. You are on the ground and you can therefore see what is happening and possibly prevent that. It is a responsibility of all of us to fight wildlife crime as long as that is done in a coordinated manner through the MET and in accordance with policies and legislation of our country”.
He pointed to recent criticism towards Namibia’s “conservation practices and [the] sustainable way of utilizing our natural resources in our conservancies, particularly the hunting of elephants in some conservancies in the Kunene and Erongo region”.
Despite continued misguided beliefs that Namibia’s desert elephants are a rare and separate elephant species, Shifeta reminded everyone that Namibia’s desert adapted elephants are “the same species of elephants which occur elsewhere in the country and are commonly known as African Elephant”.
He said “the current conservation status of elephants in Namibia is more than satisfactory” and added that “their numbers already exceed what many would consider desirable for the available habitats and they have been identified as a possible threat to other rare and valuable species which Namibia is trying to conserve”.
In fact, Shifeta added that “there are more elephants in Namibia today than at any time in the past 100 years. One of the reasons for their increase in numbers is that they have a value, communities have rights to manage and use the wildlife, and are starting to earn significant income from wildlife and this is creating the incentives for them to look after and protect wildlife, including elephants, all of which leads to a positive conservation result. Trophy and sustainable use of wildlife is a result of good conservation”.
Another challenge the deputy Minister spoke about was the issue of human wildlife conflict in many rural communities. He noted that conflict between communities and wildlife is escalating “as a result of human population growth, expansion of agricultural and industrial activities which together have led to increased human encroachment on previously wild and uninhabited areas. Competition for the available natural habitats and resources has increased”.
He advised the conservancy representatives to “implement a variety of approaches in order to manage the conflict efficiently and effectively, in line with the strategies set out in the National Policy”. He noted that it is important to rely on “prevention strategies which endeavor to avoid the conflict occurring in the first place and take action towards addressing its root causes and protection strategies that are implemented when the conflict is certain to happen or has already occurred …”.
Shifeta concluded his talk by officially launching the Guidelines for Management of Conservancies and the Standard Operating Procedures booklet. These booklets provide a framework and SOP for the establishment and management of conservancies in Namibia.