CBNRM Programme – An African success story: Groundbreaking and successful

African wild dogs – saving this predator from extinction
July 15, 2012
Community Forests and Conservancies – Promising partnerships – a tale of integration
July 15, 2012
African wild dogs – saving this predator from extinction
July 15, 2012
Community Forests and Conservancies – Promising partnerships – a tale of integration
July 15, 2012

By Rachel Malone, NNF project coordinator

Looking in retrospect at the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme in Namibia and the involvement of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and key service partners to implement this ground-breaking and highly successful initiative, it cannot be summed up better than in the words of the current Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism: “This is the best rural development programme in the country!”


Established in 1992 with support from USAID and the WWF–US, and since becoming the WWF in Namibia, CBNRM in Namibia worked closely with Namibian field-based NGOs such as the NNF (Namibia Nature Foundation) and the  IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation) in the early years to build what is now recognised internationally as one of Africa’s success stories – although many of us in Namibia would recognise that the ball is now rolling and it is our task to keep steering it in the right direction!

Since its beginnings and up until 2008 (16 years), the CBNRM programme was strategically supported by a number of key partners. A key project was the Living in a Finite Environment (LIFE) programme (phases 1,2 & Plus), with funding totalling approximately N$40 million.

The LIFE programme was designed to …increase benefits received by historically disadvantaged Namibians from sustainable local management of natural resources in communal areas.

puros conservancy

Puros conservancy


With the initial focus on a national level and in the selected target areas of the Caprivi and Otjozondjupa regions, this was subsequently expanded to include the southern Kunene and Erongo regions, and the Uukwaluudhi area in the Omusati Region.

To suggest that the success of the CBNRM programme, with support from the LIFE programme, has been significant, is an understatement, considering the plethora of outputs that have contributed significantly to sustainable- development in Namibia. These include:

  • Contributing towards the achievement of major policy/legislative reform, most notably the 1995 Policy on Wildlife Management, Utilisation and Tourism in Communal Areas, and the 1996 Nature Conservation Amendment Act, which provided the framework conservancy formation;
  • Community mobilisation and raising awareness of CBNRM development opportunities;
  • Attaining tangible financial benefits from wildlife and tourism-based enterprises – today the total income value is greater than N$42 million per annum;
  • Building the institutional capacity of Namibian support institutions;
  • Establishing financially viable and well-managed conservancies that lead to the improved management of their natural resources; and
  • Enhancing the livelihood of conservancy members through expanded sustainable natural resource use and other livelihood opportunities.

The CBNRM programme has expanded to include 64 registered conservancies across 11 regions in Namibia, involving more than 230 000 Namibians (over 12% of the total population). The registered conservancies encompass approximately 14.4 million hectares (over 17% of the total landmass of the entire country!).

King Taapopi of the Uukwaluudhi traditional authority

King Taapopi of the Uukwaluudhi traditional authority

When combined with the 14.1% of land managed as nature reserves and national parks, the CBNRM programme has effectively doubled the total of Namibian land under conservation management – a remarkable African success story.

The involvement of the NNF in CBNRM, and in particular the LIFE programme, has ranged from policy support to field support directly with conservancies, and from financial management of the umbrella body NACSO to the management of grants. As we continue to move forward with CBNRM in Namibia, one of the key roles the NNF has played and hopes to continue playing is the coordination the annual State of Conservancy Report (, which captures the success of the programme.

The NNF and other partners involved in the programme are proud to have been there from the beginning.

This article appeared in the 2012 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.


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