Conserving through conservancy

Share this page

Rob Soutter – Senior Advisor, Special Campaigns and Growth

Iguazu - 1992-2012(1)

I’d like to share some really inspiring news from Namibia, down in the south-west corner of Africa, where WWF has recently recognised the Namibia Government for the Community Conservancy Programme which helps local communities take responsibility for managing their environment and share in the benefits.  This is a real win-win where people, wildlife and the environment gain.

The 15-year programme has resulted in dramatic recoveries of wildlife populations including elephant, rhino, lion and cheetah, a doubling of the area of the country under conservation management, and real, tangible benefits for the communities.   These benefits include income from tourism and businesses related to the conservancies increasing annually and amounting to US$6 million in 2012, development of skills and livelihoods ranging from running tourist accommodation and activities such as horse and walking trails, to financial management, game farming and management, and promotion of womens’ rights and representative democracy.

Cheetah, Namibia  ©Martin Harvey/WWF-CanonCheetah, Namibia ©Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

Presenting the 112th Gift to the Earth – WWF’s most prestigious award for globally significant conservation actions – former WWF International President Chief Emeka Anyaoku congratulated Namibian President Pohamba on the success of the programme which has resulted in the creation of 79 conservancies covering 20% of the country (some 16 million hectares), and providing benefits to one-in-ten Namibians.  The award presentation took place on 26 October in Windhoek at the opening of the World Adventure Tourism Summit, a critically important audience, demonstrating that environmentally- and socially-responsible tourism can hugely benefit people, their environment and wildlife.

Namibian women make up one-third of the wildlife management teams, and 60% of employees in the businesses and tourism activities associated with the conservancies.  Management of each conservancy is run by a locally and democratically elected committee consisting of men and women.  Conservancies thus serve as representative democracies where elected bodies make decisions on behalf of the communities.  And the people can have a direct say at the annual meetings.

Burchell's zebra Equus burchelli Stampeding at waterhole. Etosha N.P., Namibia  Martin  ©Harvey/WWF-CanonBurchell’s zebra Equus burchelli Stampeding at waterhole. Etosha N.P., Namibia ©Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

The contrast of these successes with the situation back in 1990 when Namibia became independent is huge.  Then, widespread poverty and a crippling drought which resulted in huge loss of livestock led to massive poaching which decimated wildlife populations.  As government “owned” the land and wildlife, there was no incentive to look after the natural environment as local people saw no benefit.  But following a change in legislation enabling communities to take over management of a defined area of land through the establishment of conservancies, this pioneering conservation programme was launched as a partnership between government and civil society organisations with WWF support.

The experiences and practices have been shared with over 20 countries, including Cambodia, Kenya, Mongolia, Nepal, and the US.

Namibia’s Community Conservancy Programme is a wonderful and inspiring example of WWF’s Mission in action:  to create a world where people live in harmony with nature.

Related posts