The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and the Namibian Association of Community, Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations (NACSO), jointly won the 2012 Markhor Award for Outstanding Conservation Performance.
The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation recognised the outstanding conservation performance of Namibian communal conservancies as a jointly supported programme of the ministry and of NACSO.
There is increasing evidence of a global and African decline in biodiversity, which includes the genes, species and eco-systems upon which humans depend.
Between 1970 and 2008, the year when the first Markhor Award was granted, animal populations in Africa declined by 38 percent, according to the Living Planet Index issued by the WWF.
Through the Markhor Award, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation honours conservation projects that link human livelihoods with the conservation of biodiversity.
It recognises and celebrates outstanding conservation performance that link the conservation of biodiversity and human livelihoods through the application of the principles of sustainable use, in particular hunting, as part of wildlife and ecosystem management.
Previous winners have been the Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique and the Torghar Conservation Programme in Pakistan. The name 'Markhor' comes from Pakistan's threatened mountain goat species, of which population numbers have multiplied 25 times in recent years because of sustainable hunting tourism.
Income from hunting has benefited the local people and increased their interest in conserving wildlife. The award is granted every two years at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, which was adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and to which Namibia is a signatory.
In the northwest Kunene Region, for example, Hartmann's Mountain Zebra numbers have grown from an estimated 1,000 in 1982 to around 27,000 today. In addition, the population of the desert-adapted elephant has grown from around 150 to approximately 750 in the same period.
Lions in the Kunene Region have expanded in range and number, from 20 in 1995 to an estimated 130 today, and Namibia has the world's largest population of black rhino.
The MET has promoted this recovery by translocating large numbers of animals to communal conservancies. The translocation of these valuable animals to conservancies is an indicator of the confidence the MET places in the Communal Conservancy Programme.
In his nomination bid, Chris Weaver, Director of WWF in Namibia, said that the sustainable use of wildlife has been a strong catalyst for the recovery of wildlife in communal areas of Namibia, and participating conservancies have been quick to recognize that wildlife is more valuable alive than poached.
"As a result, poaching has become socially unacceptable and game numbers have staged remarkable recoveries in most areas where conservancies have operated for a period of time," Weaver added.
The work of the MET and NACSO in supporting the Namibia Communal Conservancy Movement has led to a widespread and sustained growth of wildlife populations in Namibia, where communal conservancies have grown from four in 1998 to 76 in 2012, covering almost 19 percent of the country.
The income from sustainable hunting pays for conservancy salaries - including game guards - and places many conservancies on a sound financial footing.
Total benefits, including income from employment, in-kind benefits, and cash to communal conservancies between 1998 and 2010 totalled N$179.3 million or US$23.81 million. Although more than half of these benefits were generated from joint venture lodges, the sustainable use of wildlife has produced the majority of cash income to conservancies (N$48.9 million versus N$30.0 million).
These cash payments have been essential to allowing conservancies to employ their own conservation staff, cover conservancy operating costs and contribute to rural development activities - thus, creating strong incentives for communities to live with wildlife.