By Irene !Hoaes
Namibia has become a worldwide model for community-based natural resources management as evidenced by successes recorded in the sector.
The sector generated N$233 million to net national income in 2007 alone.
Stories are related about a San community in West Caprivi, one of the poorest marginalised communities in Southern Africa, who generated the equivalent of US$416 000 last year through community-based tourism activities.
Of this money, US$170 000 was paid into the Namibian Game Products Trust Fund and the rest was kept for community development.
These are just some of the many benefits the tourism sector contributes to the country’s poor people through community-based tourism activities.
These community-based conservancies are generating impressive amounts of income and using the income to improve the management of natural resources, upgrading of schools and rural water supply.
All these were made possible through a partnership between the United Nations Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Namibian Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme.
Namibia has 50 registered conservancies over 118 704 square kilometers, involving 220 620 people countrywide.
The Chief of Party of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Chris Weaver at a ceremony celebrating 15 years of USAID assistance and achievement to Namibia’s CBNRM programme, said in 1993, tourism was not considered part of economic development.
“By 1993, conservancies were only a dream. Now it is part of the country’s poverty alleviation strategy, the national development plans and Vision 2030,” Weaver told the gathering.
The sector is expected to generate close to N$80 million during the next few years.
Poaching in the country has reportedly virtually stopped while species such as the white rhino, elephants and lions that were nearly extinct in some parts of the country have now significantly increased.
The sector has created 855 full-time jobs and 6 227 part-time jobs.
However, on a negative note, human wildlife conflicts are on the increase in some parts of the country.
Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Leon Jooste, was proud about what he termed the “most impressive community-based natural resource management programme in the world today”.
“The legislation was only passed in 1996 and if one considers the remarkable achievements within what in conservation terms is truly a split second, then we have reason to look forward to an incredible future for Namibian CBNRM,” Jooste said.
Jooste noted that the Namibian CBNRM programme once again illustrates the value of partnership, noting that the country would not have achieved success in isolation.
Jooste further affirmed the ministry’s continued dedication to the CBNRM programme, promising that it will remain a major priority for the ministry as the programme is in line with Vision 2030 and NDP3.
Namibia is currently in the process of negotiating for US$18,2 million (around N$128 million) from the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Jooste said when the funds are secured, the focus will be on 31 conservancies with specific focus on technical assistance and capacity building, as well as a grant facility for 15 of the conservancies making provision for marketing services, acquisition or translocation of wildlife, and partial funding to conservancies of tourism enterprise joint ventures.
The US Ambassador, Dennise Mathieu, attended the occasion, which also marked the end of USAID support to the CBNRM, which officially ends on June 30, 2008.
Mathieu said the success of the CBNRM programme can be attributed to partnership and collaborative efforts.
“Three main factors contributed to the success of this programme – the longevity of our support to you, the fact that you established a supportive framework of legislation, policies and institutions for CBNRM and the attention you paid to the creation, expansion and facilitation of partnerships,” the US Head of Mission said.
Over the past 17 years, USAID has contributed over US$250 million (N$1,75 billion) to support various programmes and projects in Namibia, while US$41,6 million (291 million) was spent on the CBNRM programme.
Mathieu said USAID assistance would now focus on fighting HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
“While we will end our bilateral CBNRM assistance programme, I look forward to the continuation of our partnership in the fight against HIV/AIDS within conservancies, through the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO) HIV/AIDS Support Programme,” Mathieu said.