Windhoek — Between 2005 and 2009 the total revenue generated by Namibian conservancies including cash and proceeds from other sources such as meat sold and consumed, as well as plants utilised and sold, increased substantially from U$1.4 million to U$3.5 million.
The increase in the number of registered conservancies established from a baseline of 42 in 2005 to 59 in 2010 also indicates the community-based natural resource management initiative has grown in popularity over the years at both the national and international level.
This information is contained in a report launched by the World Bank and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on managing land sustainably for better livelihoods.
Over 40 percent of Namibia's land is under a conservation regime, the most interesting of which is the communal conservancy, an institutional arrangement that gives local communities property rights over commercial utilisation of wildlife and other resources.
The 71 community conservancies now support 25 percent of the rural population and greatly contribute to the growing wildlife populations in Namibia, which include the only growing population of free-roaming black rhinos and free-roaming lions among other animals.
According to the report, these conservancies have also enabled communities to easily form joint ventures with commercial enterprises primarily for tourism, but also enterprises that generate commercial income and other economic benefits for remote rural communities.
"Their formation has become a social development movement as well as an accepted and holistic approach to conservation," the report indicates.
With the United States Agency for International Development's Life Program, the World Bank and the GEF have given support to conservancies for participatory land use planning, development and extension of community wildlife management and monitoring.
Through the program, communities are provided incentives to manage and use resources in sustainable and productive ways to reduce deforestation, land degradation and biodiversity loss.
Further, the same report noted that such support has facilitated the strategic introduction of wildlife in conservancies with low game densities and diversified income-generation opportunities to increase non-financial benefits and new income to households.
Moreover, the project supported community-based integrated management practices in 16 conservancies, covering a total area of 38 595 square kilometres.
The project's overall impacts, the report says, are numerous, particularly in terms of the participatory management of the conservancies, the conservation and sustainable utilisation of biodiversity and the improved livelihood of local communities.
Furthermore, the project put a legal framework in place and built human capacity by incorporating integrated ecosystem management into the national program.
"The program in Namibia has already demonstrated the effectiveness of developing management authority over wildlife to landholders as a conservation mechanism. Still, to enhance conservation efforts, more effort is needed to improve community coordination and management of conflicts between people and wildlife," the report says.