Positive impacts of Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in Namibia
Conservancies are helping to address social inequities and disparities by empowering communities with a voice in their development destinies. This voice is based upon democratically elected governance structures that have been instrumental in filling the governance void that apartheid left in its wake across Namibia’s communal lands. These structures have also proven instrumental in addressing gender inequities and the creation of platforms by which the representative needs of conservancy members can be expressed.
Conservancies, through private sector partners, are creating jobs and career pathways in remote rural areas where such options previously did not exist. Conservancies are also directly contributing to social development through improvements to schools, clinics, energy, and household nutrition
Environmentally, conservancies have created incentives for communities to live with wildlife and to set aside vast tracts of wildlife habitat, making Namibia one of Africa’s few shining examples of wildlife conservation. Wildlife is now being integrated into the lifestyles and needs of rural communities as a mainstreamed form of sustainable development. The presence of conservancies adjacent to national parks or in corridors between parks is enhancing the viability of Namibia’s protected area network and allowing conservation to be attained at a landscape scale across not only Namibia, but with neighbouring countries. This type of sustainable development is critical to ensuring that Namibia’s fragile ecosystem services remain viable and vibrant for generations to come.
From an economic perspective, the contributions of conservancies are still in their infancy. Wildlife populations in most conservancies are still recovering, and time is required to assist conservancies to develop their management capacity and tap their long-term tourism development potential. Notably, tourism facilities in conservancies contain less than 6% of the bed nights in Namibia, while just 6% of Namibia’s tourists originate from North America (the largest source of nature-based tourists in the world). Consequently, there is significant opportunity for nature-based tourism to grow in Namibia and for conservancies to capture a greater market share of visiting tourists.
Communal conservancies contributed approximately N$884 million to the economy of Namibia in 2018. But, with continued support and development, conservancy returns should continue to escalate at a rate greater than tourism in the remainder of Namibia. A conservative tourism growth rate of 8% per year for conservancies, indicates the NNI contributions of communal conservancies will almost triple by 2028.