Khorixas — FOLLOWING a recent three-day mission to the Kunene Region by members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration, the general impression was that several conservancies in the region are doing well.
Led by Hage Geingob, six Members of Parliament (MPs) undertook a familiarisation tour of lodges in the scenic Twyfel-fontein-Uibasen, Doro !Nawas and !=Khaodi //Hoas conservancies located in the north-western part of the country.
The other five members of the Committee were its Vice-Chairperson Peya Mushelenga, Chief Stefanus Ankama, Hansina Christiaans, Lucia Basson and McHenry Venaani. Over the weekend, the parliamentarians toured lodges in various conservancies, holding discussions to understand the achievements, challenges and future plans of the lodges they visited.
"So far we are impressed. We are talking about people and the community empowering themselves for sustainable development.
Through conservancies, people can at least have a roof over their heads, build their own clinics and schools and develop the country by 2030," said the group's chairman Geingob during the excursion.
This sentiment on behalf of the committee fell well in line with the Minister of Environment Willem Konjore's speech delivered prior to their departure on Friday. The minister said that the total number of 42 registered conservancies in the country had proven to pave the way for development.
"The advantage of conservancies is that rural people are organised the conservancy programme has contributed to national development in many ways, for example, the increased capacity and skills of our conservancy committees and members to effectively manage their natural, human and financial resources and to take responsibility for determining their own future," explained Konjore.
Through conservancies, rural communities have helped themselves out of poverty while at the same time creating jobs for others in their areas.
However, it is evident that challenges of animal-human conflict, uncontrolled tourism activities and in some instances poaching, are some of the challenges facing conservancies in the country.
It is against this background that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration went to meet conservancy members on the ground to hear about progress or a lack thereof.
Throughout the trip, it became apparent that rural people are taking control of their natural resources in the different conservancies. For instance, Grootberg Lodge in the !=Khaodi //Haos Conservancy was applauded by MP's for a job well done.
Since being registered on June 15, 1998, the conservancy has been raking in substantial revenue and savings from its profits, mainly through trophy hunting of wild game. According to its coordinator, Bob !=Guibeb, it has managed to make an income of N$160 000 a year. The money has been saved in the bank. Rather impressed by this achievement, parliamentarian McHenry Venaani said such investments by the community are wise in the light of the progressive future development of the conservancy.
"This creates a saving culture, so let's save money to invest in order to get interest."
Venaani advised the committee members to look into setting up community banks similar to Agribank to assist local farmers with agricultural goods.
"You can even start a breeding station for the Angus type breed of cattle which is currently in big demand in the European Union," he added.
While the !=Khaodi //Hoas Conservancy is 100 percent owned by the community with a European Union (EU) donation of N$4.5-million, others like Doro !Nawas have entered into joint ventures with Wilderness Safaris where the community through job-creation initiatives reaps benefits.
In terms of achievements made at the different conservancies, it is evident that progress is being made. "We are on the right track to reach that developmental goal because successes are more than the challenges. We now need to look into how better can we organise ourselves for a more unified approach to conservancies in the country," said MP Ankama, adding it is not only the Government's duty to create jobs.
At all three conservancies, there's also been a string focus on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, cultural tourism promotion and creating self-reliance amongst its community.
"Conservancies can now be trusted with their natural resources and they are responsible in running these conservancies in terms of ownership," said Ronny Dempers of the Namibia Development Trust.
Over the years, Namibia has been successful in the Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme (CBNRM) because it had a clear complementary objective such as unlocking the economic potential of wildlife, tourism and forest products, creating incentives to manage wildlife and other natural resources sustainably, supporting and promoting the establishment of local management, and developing institutions as well as correcting discriminatory imbalances of the past.
Since the advent of the programme, wildlife numbers have increased and rural communities have rights, training and skills to manage their own natural resources and institutions. The money the communities have been earning since the start of CBRNM have increased from N$6 million in 2001 to a projected income of N$18 million in 2005.
Now that the mission has been accomplished, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration plans to draft a report on their findings for submission to the environment ministry and ultimately to Government to come up with a law that would further assist in the development of conservancies in the country.
The fact-finding mission was facilitated by NACSO and field partners like the Rural People's Institute for Social Empowerment (RISE Na-mibia), Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) and the Namibia Community-based Tourism Association (NA-COBTA).