Communal Conservation In Namibia On The Right Track

27 Dec 2023

CBNRM. Behind these five letters lies a very successful concept of nature conservation in Namibia that goes beyond the national parks. CBNRM stands for Community Based Natural Resource Management - the (sustainable) management of natural resources by local communities.

The latest status of this success story is documented in the most recent Annual Report 2022, which was recently published by the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO) and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT).

According to the report, there were 86 registered communal conservancies and 46 community forests at the end of last year - three more than in 2021. In total, these areas covered more than 165 000 km². This corresponds to over 20 percent of Namibia's total area and exceeds the proportion of national parks and state concession areas (17.6 percent, according to the NACSO and MEFT website on Community Conservation. This is all the more remarkable as the legal basis for community conservation was only created after Namibia's independence in 1990.

National Park State of community conservation annual report 2022 MEFT NACSO Namibia
Success story of nature conservation in Namibia since independence in 1990: Not only additional national parks, but above all the communal conservancies have increased the proportion of the country's total area under nature conservation to almost 40 per cent. 
Graphics: MEFT/NACSO: The state of community conservation in Namibia (Annual Report 2022), Windhoek 2023, p. 67

Conservancies reap the rewards of their nature conservation efforts

Residents of communal areas (and commercial farmers) can join forces and register as a conservancy with the MEFT. Conservancies then draw up their own management plans, carry out game counts and submit plans and reports to the Ministry.

The great advantage of communal conservation areas is that the people involved reap the fruits of their labour , i.e. the benefits resulting from game conservation. For example, they share in the income from tourism in their respective areas. According to the annual report, this amounted to more than 140 million Namibia Dollar in 2022 (non-consumptive tourism: N$ 92.4 million; trophy hunting: almost N$ 35 million, plus meat from hunting with a total value of over N$ 8.5 million).

Another important factor is jobs for the members (2022: more than 3,220) with the corresponding income (2022 total N$ 75.3 million), whether in the conservancy itself (a good N$ 24.6 million), hunting companies (over N$ 2.7 million) or accommodation (almost N$ 48 million) in their area.

The situation is similar with the community forests for the protection of forest areas, which are mainly found in north-eastern Namibia. As with the conservancies, there are management plans for sustainable utilisation and regular inventories. According to a recent comprehensive study, Namibia's forests are under severe threat.

Besides, conservancies and community forests received COVID-19 emergency aid totalling almost N$ 20 million.

The annual report also shows that the success story of community-based nature conservation is characterised by challenges. The work of the conservancies is assessed on the basis of several criteria. More than half do not fulfil all requirements. However, the results of nature conservation work in most conservancies are very positive. Only a handful receive the grade 'very poor'.

State of community conservation annual report 2022 MEFT NACSO Namibia
Inventory of nature conservation in Namibia's communal areas.
Cover of MEFT/NACSO: The state of community conservation in Namibia (Annual Report 2022), Windhoek 2023. 
The report can be downloaded as a PDF from the NACSO website.


Sven-Eric Stender

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