By Linda Baker
Beautifully woven baskets, delicate necklaces made from ostrich eggshells, and tiny dolls stained with rich red ochre – these crafts and curios are omnipresent in Namibia. But this wouldn’t be a reality without Community Resource Monitors (CRMs).
They provide the link between the market and the craft makers and monitor the resources used so that they are managed wisely.
In fact, CRMs have become so vital to the way of life and economies in rural areas, that in 1999, the Namibian Association of Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Organsations (NACSO) was founded to provide a platform for advocacy, co-ordination and to promote partnerships and funding for CRMs.
From its base in Windhoek, NACSO works to ensure that CRMs are not reliant on one group or organisation for support, but that they can tap into the skills, talents and potential funding of various organisations, from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to WWF, from the Legal Assistance Centre to the Rössing Foundation and many others.
For the Bushman pounding bits of ostrich eggs shells to the Caprivian collecting grasses for baskets, NACSO provides a voice and support in a world of confusing acronyms, changing interests and increased competition.
Based on a CBNRM philosophy and approach, NACSO works to provide quality services to communal area communities seeking to manage and use their natural resources equitably and sustainably.
CBNRM grew from the recognition that wildlife and other natural resources had dwindled or disappeared in many communal areas. Efforts to reverse these losses provided opportunities for communities in rural areas to improve their livelihoods through the use of high-value wildlife for tourism, trophy hunting and meat.
CBNRM creates incentives to manage wildlife and other natural resources sustainably and boosts the abundance and productivity of natural resources, unlocking the economic potential of wildlife and tourism.
At the same time, the conservancy programme supports and promotes the establishment of local management institutions, mainly through conservancies, fostering empowerment, capacity and skills at local levels while correcting discriminatory imbalances of the past.
Conservancies are one of the instruments used to implement community-based natural resource management. A conservancy is an area in which rural communities gain rights to use, manage and benefit from wildlife within legally defined areas. This unfenced land is zoned by members for their livelihood needs, including crop and livestock farming, mixed wild and domestic animal grazing and exclusive wildlife and tourism.
These systems can be extended beyond wildlife to encompass other resources such as water points, woodlands or forestry and rangelands. This is evident in that 29 community forests, based on the same principles as conservancies, have been recognised by government to focus on woodland resources.
More than seven million hectares of communal land are now managed as communal-area conservancies. Together with conservancies on commercial land, these add to Namibia’s network of protected areas. At the time of going to press, 31 communal-area conservancies had been gazetted, and a further 17 were in the process of registration.
Conservancy members are required to elect a representative committee to manage natural resources and distribute income from tourism and hunting equitably. Most conservancies employ game guards, field officers and community activators.
Wildlife numbers have continued to increase and this has significantly contributed to incomes in rural communities. As a result, the programme is recognised as an important and viable development strategy by national development plans NDP 1 and NDP2 and Vision 2030.
The initiative has created jobs and people are encouraged to develop and manage their own development pathways. CBNRM draws investment into under-developed and remote communal areas, creates an environment that enables small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to flourish and promotes environmental sustainability.
It also offers an ideal vehicle to support and facilitate programmes that address social problems such as HIV/Aids because of the effective networks and linkages through government, non-government, community-based, traditional, village and household partner organisations.
To make conservancies possible, government introduced legislation in 1996. However, as more and more conservancies were proclaimed and others emerged, it became necessary to co-ordinate activities and services provided by various organisations and institutions.
The idea of a national CBNRM support structure emerged in the early 1990s. International support and funding were sourced from many organisations, with WWF, USAID and DfID playing an active role in supporting pilot programmes in specific geographical areas.
A wide consultation process culminated in the formation of the umbrella organisation known as the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO) in 1999, when the founding members adopted its constitution. NACSO functions to provide a common platform for advocacy and co-ordination, and to promote partnerships. The association developed a five-year strategic vision for CBNRM in Namibia, with the following objectives:
• to ensure CBOs have the capacity to manage;
• to promote sustainable integrated resource use and management;
• to ensure CBO and community incomes; to ensure that benefits are increased;
• to ensure that the capacity of CBNRM support organisations is increased; and
• to increase public support and secure long-term financing.
NACSO harnesses the wide range of skills available in government, NGO and university sectors into a synergetic nationwide supportive CBNRM movement, as no single institution houses all the skills, resources and capacity needed to provide community organisations with the multi-faceted assistance required to develop the broad range of CBNRM initiatives taking place in Namibia.
Partners provide assistance to communities engaged in CBNRM through technical assistance, business advice, capacity building, training, grant management, regional co-ordination, institutional strengthening, monitoring and evaluation and promoting good governance through CBNRM.
This is done through working groups that draw on the expertise of partner and other institutions. They are the: Institutional Development Working Group, encompassing training and monitoring and evaluation activities; Legal Working Group; Natural Resource Management Working Group; Research Working Group Tourism; Enterprise Development Working Group; and Strategic Working Group.
The NACSO secretariat provides secretarial, networking, publicity, information and advocacy services directly to the programme. Other services, including CBNRM fund-raising and grant management, are rendered by NNF on behalf of the Association.
This article appeared in the 2005/6 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.