Community Based Natural Resource Management in Namibia – an undeniable success

Caprivi pivotal in transboundary wildlife management
June 20, 2012
Craft sector in a continual state of flux
June 20, 2012
Caprivi pivotal in transboundary wildlife management
June 20, 2012
Craft sector in a continual state of flux
June 20, 2012

The popular success of the communal conservancy approach to community-based natural resource management in Namibia is undeniable. In the eight years since the passing of Namibia’s innovative Communal Area Conservancy legislation, a total of 29 conservancies, incorporating more than 72 000 residents managing an area of some 7 072 300 hectares, have been registered and gazetted, says Anna Davis, performance management co-ordinator of the Namibia Nature Foundation.

According to His Excellency, the President of Namibia, Dr Sam Nujoma, conservancies empower local people to make their own decisions about their own resources, while enabling them to benefit from these resources. Conservancies should be seen as creating the institutional structure in helping to diversify rural economies. Through the conservancy system the Namibian Government has created the opportunity for natural resource-based industries to develop.

New growth, new interest

With early roots in the north west (Kunene), north east (Caprivi) and Nyae Nyae areas (Otjozondjupa), interest and participation in conservancies has now spread to the Erongo, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Oshana, Kavango, Hardap, Karas and Omaheke regions. In addition to the 22% of communal lands encompassed by the 29 gazetted conservancies, a further 56 conservancies (incorporating an estimated 5 000 000 ha and involving approximately 50 000 to 60 000 more people) across the country are preparing for registration.

Support for CBNRM comes mainly from the Ministry of Environment (the CBNRM Sub Division (CSD) in particular) in partnership with the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO), a collaboration of 11 local Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and the University of Namibia (UNAM). The Polytechnic of Namibia has incorporated CBNRM as an integral part of its National Diploma, Bachelor of Technology Degree and certificate courses (Nature Conservation and Agriculture).

Managing the natural resource base

Conservancy efforts towards improving the management of natural resources can be tracked through, amongst others, a significant increase in wildlife numbers and distribution, dramatic reductions in illegal hunting (poaching), population growth of important species such as black rhino and elephant, and the steps being taken by conservancies to manage human/wildlife conflict.

Building on natural resource management tools that predate conservancies such as the use of local people as Community Game Guards, Environmental Shepherds and Community Resource Monitors, conservancies have implemented new systems such as the “Event Book”, monitoring method and regional game counts which allow conservancies to gauge wildlife populations and set quotas where appropriate.

During June 2003, the fourth annual game census of more than 5 000 000 hectares of existing and emerging communal conservancies in north-west Namibia was conducted. The results of the census found significant increases for most wildlife populations, with species such as gemsbok and springbok having increased by more than 20% over the past year. Last year’s population growth reflects a long-term trend for game populations in the north west. In the last 21 years springbok, gemsbok and Hartmann’s zebra have in-creased from less than the estimated 1 000 animals to more than 100 000, 35 000 and 14 000 respectively.

In other regions, low wildlife populations and slow recovery rates are being bolstered through the strategic translocations of wildlife into conservancies. During 2002, a total of 1 645 animals, commercially valued at N$2 801 400, were moved into six communal conservancies.

However, as wildlife numbers increase, human-wildlife contact also increases. This has had some negative impacts, such as crop losses to elephants, livestock to predators and in several cases loss of human life to hippo, crocodile and elephant. In the Caprivi and Kunene regions a Human Animal Conflict Compensation Scheme (HACCS) is underway where, over the long term, individual conservancies will compensate for stock losses caused by certain species of wildlife, provided that certain, very clear, conditions are met. In the Kunene Region, six conservancies have benefited from projects funded through the Game Products Trust Funds (GPTF), Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to protect water points from elephants, as well as by using electric fencing to protect crops.

Tourism and Enterprise Development – generating benefits

Conservancy growth continues to be matched by increasing revenues accruing to communities from CBNRM activities. Revenue accrued to local communities in the form of enterprise and wage income, and non-financial conservancy benefits almost doubled in 2002 from over N$6 000 000 in 2001 to over N$11 000 000. A breakdown of the income/ benefits generated reflects the following:

• Community-Based Tourism


N$3 105 016          28%

• Trophy Hunting & Meat

N$2 513 676          22%

• Joint Venture Tourism

N$2 179 874          20%

• Thatching Grass Sales

N$1 077 500          10%

• Game Donations

N$1 026 600          9%

• Craft Sales

N$561 221 5%

• Own-Use Meat

N$402 014 4%

• Interest Earned

N$156 500 1%

In 2002 it was recorded that 374 conservancy members held full-time jobs in tourism ventures, whilst 3 136 people held part-time jobs as craft makers, trackers for hunting, etc.

Eleven registered conservancies currently have trophy hunting concessions in their areas, including a recent million-dollar contract signed jointly by four neighbouring Caprivi conservancies (Kwandu, Mashi, Mayuni and Wuparo) bringing some of the first income to this area. Four conservancies have well-functioning joint-venture agreements with private-sector partners for lodges, which earned total benefits (including wages) of N$2 179 874 in 2002. A joint venture tendering process has been established under which a fifth agreement has been signed, a sixth is under negotiation and a further four high-value sites are currently out on tender. The MET recently began work on the Community Lodgers initiative, which is aimed at assisting communities to target and benefit from the mid-market tourism bracket. Funding is now in place to establish the first two such lodges.

Tourism Planning continues to be a priority activity with plans for North West (Kunene and Erongo) conservancies as well as the Caprivi Eastern Floodplains and the Caprivi Kwandu Linyanti river system in place. These plans are aimed at ensuring that the tourism potential of conservancies is reached and that conservancies take informed decisions about tourism, thus stemming the ad hoc development of tourism products.

Reaching people – building skills and institutions for CBNRM

Despite considerable success and growth, the CBNRM programme and conservancies themselves still face considerable challenges. Predicted and to some extent inevitable, the key challenges ahead for conservancies include:

• Managing benefits from conservancies (financial and non-financial);

• Building and maintaining good communication and relations with a variety of diverse stakeholders including conservancy members, traditional authorities, regional councils, land boards, private sector and Government;

• Managing the impact of human wildlife conflict;

• Upholding community rights through dealing with disputes and conflicts;

• Diversifying conservancies beyond the wildlife focus; and

• Reaching social, environmental and economic sustainability.

In order to meet the above challenges, and for conservancies to be strong, democratic entities, considerable focus is being placed on building local skills. These include planning, reporting, and communication between conservancies and members, land-use planning, management plan establishment, participatory decision-making, visioning (strategic planning conducted across conservancy membership), financial management, staff management, negotiation skills, establishing policies (including strategies to address the issue of HIV/AIDS), institutional arrangements, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation.

One of the key challenges facing conservancies is managing benefits. Twelve conservancies are managing the process of distributing the meat from trophy hunting or “own use quotas” to members. During the last two years, five conservancies began the process of distributing cash benefits to members with a total of N$369 475 distributed between villages and members.

To date, four conservancies have reached financial independence, generating substantially greater annual revenues than incurred annual operating costs. These are: Torra, Uibasen, Nyae Nyae, and Salambala, which employ a total of 67 full-time and 15 part-time staff.

The ≠Khoadi – // Hôas Conservancy has taken over 75% of its running costs, and at least three other registered conservancies are contributing to conservancy costs.


Clearly, the conservancy movement is having unprecedented conservation and development impacts. Conservancies are proving to be a viable mechanism for improved decision-making and management of natural resources, for the benefit of those directly involved as members, and the country at large.

This article appeared in the 2003/4 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.





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