Conservancy managers are now forced to allocate 50% of the income from tourism concessions and hunting activities to community development projects.
Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta announced these new directives through letters to various conservancy leaders across the country on 17 December 2018.
The government introduced the conservancy concept in 1998 to allow communities to manage natural resources, protected areas and wild animals sustainably, while raising income for rural people.
Namibia now has up to 83 conservancies, which accommodate close to 200 000 people. But there have always been concerns that community members are being cheated out of the income derived from conservancies.
Shifeta's directives came after the ministry uncovered rife corruption in how traditional leaders were enriching themselves and their families through tourism and conservancy projects.
"My office has received numerous complaints from community members, citing a lack of benefits from tourism concessions and hunting activities awarded by this ministry," he said in one of his letters to the conservancies.
"As the minister responsible for these sectors, I am deeply concerned by those regular complaints, as the main objectives of awarding concessions are to facilitate rural development, employment-creation and local, national economic growth for the benefits of community members, and not a few individuals," Shifeta stressed.
According to him, 50% of the total annual income from tourism concessions or hunting activities should be allocated towards the implementation of community development projects.
"These projects must be identified or approved at the beginning of each calendar year by ordinary community members, and not just conservancy committee members or community concession committees," he added.
Shifeta said the conservancies should inform the ministry every year by 31 March of such projects, including the estimated cost for each project.
He informed conservancy managers to submit a report on the implementation of the identified projects, which should be sent to the ministry by 30 November each year.
"The report should include how much revenue was derived from the tourism concessions and hunting activities, as well as how much of this revenue was utilised for project implementation," the minister continued.
He warned that failure to comply with these new directives and to meet the respective deadlines "may result in the ministry withholding your concession and hunting rights, or taking any such action deemed necessary to ensure compliance".
The chairperson of the Eiseb conservancy, Rukee Kazau, confirmed yesterday that he received Shifeta's letter. The conservancy in the Omaheke region has a population of 1 448 people, and accommodates elephants, leopard, giraffe, eland, kudu, gemsbok, steenbok, wild dogs, spotted hyena, cheetah and black-backed jackal. Kazau applauded the ministry for the decision, and urged the conservancies to focus on funding projects that were not earlier implemented because of a lack of money.
Edward Libuku from the Kasika conservancy said the directive by the minister is good news, and they are looking forward to implement it.
The conservancy is situated near the Chobe and Zambezi rivers, and borders the Chobe National Park in Botswana.
The conservancy, which houses an estimated 1 130 people, is home to elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, hippos and other wildlife.
The Namibian Association of Community-Based Natural Resources Management Support Organisations produced a 2016 report titled 'State of Community Conservation in Namibia'.
That report claimed that community conservation contributed around N$6 billion to Namibia's economy from 1990 to 2014, while N$111 million went to communities in 2016.
Members of parliament reportedly disputed those figures.
Namibia has won several awards for its conservancies, but some people criticised the model for not benefiting those on the ground.
New Era reported on a parliamentary report two years ago about how some communities are not happy with meagre incomes received for their resources and conservancies' management, with earnings ranging between N$500 and N$650 per month.
"By any standard, these are starvation wages," the newspaper quoted a member of parliament as saying.