New Era (Windhoek)
Income and benefits generated through conservancies has grown steadily from N$600 000 to N$14 million in a space of seven years.
This income represents 69 percent of the total Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) income of N$20 million.
This growth, according to the newly released review of Namibia's Communal Conservancies' progress and challenges in 2005, is attributed to the growth of the tourism industry. This is income that benefits households or communities in cash or material benefits and accrues to the country through the value of goods and services, contributing N$144 million to the Net National Income (NNI) in this instance.
Additional activities include private sector lodges that earn income and pay salaries to workers, which is not distributed to conservancies. Tourists are also drawn to the tourism establishments and spend their money elsewhere such as in urban hotels, airlines, car rentals and also other enterprises that use products such as food and fuel.
Not only has the number of conservancies surpassed the targets of 2005 but also the number of tourism enterprises that have been established in the registered conservancies.
According to the National Poverty Reduction Action Programme, 25 new conservancies were supposed to be registered by 2005, a number that has increased to 44 conservancies.
Additionally, Vision 2030 has set a target of 65 conservancies being registered under the current legislation. The documents have also set a target of N$795 million for the value of employment and income from tourism reaching communities by 2030.
Some of the benefits derived by communities from conservancies include direct payments of salaries - mainly from joint-venture tourism, -small enterprises such as campsites, craft sales and sale of game. Other in-kind benefits include meat from hunting, and contributions to materials such as computers and equipment to local schools.
In 2005, conservancies employed 209 full-time workers and 26 part-time ones with a further 307 full-time and 58 part jobs created in joint-venture tourism establishments in conservancies. In addition, agreements with trophy hunters provided a further 67 jobs.
Environment and Tourism Minister, Willem Konjore, said at the launch of the book on Monday that the information from the review demonstrated that CBNRM is an important development strategy for Namibia.
Even though the concept could not solve all problems of the rural poor, and could not lift everyone out of poverty, CBNRM has increased household and community safety nets and provided options in semi-arid areas to diversify that could act as buffers against crop failure or livestock losses in times of low rainfall.
CBNRM also generates income for social welfare, builds business skills and capacity and empowers rural people through devolved rights, local control over income and decision-making over natural resources.
Due to the programme, conservancies especially in the northwest and northeast have seen significant recoveries of wildlife especially of key species such as black rhino, elephant and large predators.
"As part of wildlife management, conservancies are paying increasing attention to reducing losses of livestock and crops caused by wildlife. They are ensuring that the losses to households are offset by income from wildlife and tourism," Konjore said.
However, the book notes that although a lot of work has been done to natural resource management in the country, there are challenges for natural resource management which include devolving further rights and responsibilities over wildlife, to appropriate local community organisations and to reduce regulatory constraints and procedures in the wildlife sector since they serve as a disincentive for communities to practice conservation.
Other challenges that lie ahead in the management of natural resources are the need for improved quota setting, and wildlife harvesting approaches for communities to benefit from more abundant wildlife and also to seek harmony between wildlife and competing land uses.