By Maxi Pia Louis
After two years of demarcating boundaries, compiling a membership register, developing a constitution, electing a management committee and completing various other requirements, the #Khoadi //Haoas Conservancy was launched in 1997. In June 1998 it was registered with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) as one of the first four communal-area conservancies registered under the new Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) legislation.
Eight years later, developments in the #Khoadi //Haoas Conservancy have helped create a model for other conservancies to follow as they strive to make a difference in their communities.
Early understandings and objectives
Covering an area of 360 000 hectares, the ≠Khoadi //Hoas Conservancy lies in the central Kunene Region in an area locally known the Grootberg (Big Mountain), the name derived from the imposing Grootberg plateau in the southern section of the region.
The conservancy falls in a semi-arid zone where the rainfall varies between zero and 300 millimetres per year, with the gradient descending from east to west. The rainfall is highly variable, both spatially and seasonally, a reality that can cause stress to humans and wildlife in the area.
At least 82 species of mammals including six endemics, among them Hartmann’s mountain zebra, are found in the conservancy. Predators include leopard, cheetah, hyaena, caracal and an occasional lion. There is an estimated elephant population of more than 200, and also a population of the endangered black rhino.
The total human population is estimated at 3 200, most of whom live in scattered settlements, with several hundred living at the Erwee and Anker settlements, where social services such as boarding schools, clinics and an agricultural development centre are provided. This settlement pattern is vastly different from many other communal areas where communal land is unfenced and people are more densely concentrated in villages and satellite settlements.
Up to 85 per cent of the area’s residents live on subsistence levels, farming under precarious semi-desert conditions with goats, sheep and some cattle (Jones, 1999), yet there are several wealthy livestock farmers who farm commercially. Besides the handful of civil servants employed in schools, clinics and agricultural extension services and those involved in the activities of the conservancy, there is very little formal employment in the area.
Keeping in mind the nature of the land, its human inhabitants and its wildlife, the Conservancy developed the following objectives for its members to:
• be empowered to sustainably manage, utilise and benefit from the Conservancy’s wildlife and other natural resources in accordance with the national conservancy policy;
• have ownership over the Conservancy’s huntable game and be registered as a hunting farm, apply for permits to utilise protected and specially protected game, conduct trophy hunting and buy and sell game according to a sustainable wildlife management and utilisation plan that takes into account the impact of drought and annual fluctuations in rainfall when determining quotas;
• be guided by a management and utilisation plan that specifies and regulates conservancy policy on permissible land-use in a comprehensive, integrated development and conservation strategy to ensure that the protection of wildlife and the needs of the people are secured in a co-ordinated, sustainable and comprehensive manner; and
• be empowered to enter into agreements with private companies or individuals to establish tourism facilities within the boundaries of the conservancy or to establish their own tourism and/or hunting facilities.
The effects of tourism and trophy hunting
Tourism, which includes the Grootberg Community Lodge and the Hoada Campsite, is currently the main source of income, followed by trophy hunting. The conservancy receives an annual hunting quota from the MET that provides for various species and an off-take quota for conservancy members’ own use. The trophy-hunting quota is sold to professional hunters through open tenders. The sale of hides of hunted animals also generates a small income for the conservancies.
Meat from the own-use quota and from the trophy hunts is considered as another significant direct benefit for the communities. As a result of an arrangement in the hunting contract, the trophy hunter delivers meat from his hunts at a pre-arranged central locality. The conservancy staff and committee members make announcements on the radio and then distribute the meat through the farmers’ league structures. Both members and non-members are entitled to benefit from this meat distribution. Meat from the own-use quota is mostly donated to the school hostels and the elderly. It is also used at AGMs, traditional feasts and other important events.
Providing employment to community members in the conservancy is a major benefit in the area, as the rate of unemployment, according to the 1999 survey, is estimated at 85%. All conservancy staff members are recruited locally and their income is a source of livelihood for their respective extended families. The conservancy employs around 10 staff members from the community, the Grootberg Lodge around 15 and the campsite two. On a temporary basis the trophy hunter employs a few locals from the community as cooks, trackers, skinners and camp guards. This employment, although temporary, is considered as a further benefit to the community that is directly linked to creation of the conservancy.
Making the most of its wildlife
The conservancy staff, especially the game guards known as Environmental Shepherds, play a critical role in managing and monitoring wildlife and the other natural resources in the area. Collecting wildlife data concerning animals sighted, their age and sex composition, poaching incidents, mortalities and problem-animal incidents, these ‘shepherds’ are the conservancy’s main means of applying wildlife management. The data they collect is entered into a computerised database from which monthly wildlife reports are compiled and copies submitted to the MET.
Achievements to date
• With wildlife management and conservancy development plans in place, the institutional challenges of running a conservancy, including capacity building and management issues, have been addressed in a separate institutional development framework. With investments from the European Development programme and other donors, the conservancy acquired Grootberg Community Lodge, which provides employment to community members and additional income for the conservancy.
• With the increase of conservation awareness, wildlife numbers have grown in the conservancy, a reason both for celebration and for concern. Huge conflicts between elephants and humans have erupted, and the conservancy has drawn an elephant management strategy to address these tensions. Ten protection walls and two other alternative dams for elephants have been built, while regular game counts, monitoring and an event book system all help to manage the wildlife.
• Since elephant destroy water points and cause damage to properties, the conservancy has introduced a compensation scheme that covers human deaths and provides elephant water points and diesel for farmers.
• The conservancy has introduced a credit scheme by which farmers can access ‘small-stock loans’, and also provides assistance to schools within the conservancy boundaries.
• Since most pensioners have to travel far to collect their pensions, the conservancy came up with a soup-kitchen scheme to assist its elders when waiting for long hours at pension collection points. With assistance from the conservancy, a Trust Fund for Traditional Authorities was also set up.
As it continues to develop, the #Khoadi //Haoas Conservancy faces many challenges, including the creation of more business opportunities for members within the conservancy, and addressing the immigration of non-residents in the area. The conservancy members also face huge problems with uncontrolled tourism and off-road driving in the conservancy.
Nevertheless, the #Khoadi //Haoas Conservancy will continue down the road of development, adding steadily to its achievements and creating a map for others to follow.
This article appeared in the 2006/7 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.