Bamunu Conservancy is urgently looking for investment to establish lodges in the area, as their only income at present is derived from buffalo hunting.
“We’re a conservancy. We’re not interested in killing animals. Our priority is to conserve. Perhaps if we get an investment in the line of setting up lodges it will be an alternative to hunting, but what will we be living on until that time if hunting is to be banned?” asked technical advisor John Musa Mwilima, after reports of international pressure from lobby groups who are appealing to game-rich Namibia to ban trophy hunting.
Bamunu in Sibbinda Constituency has only 1 600 members from five villages and – besides a minimal fund released from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism towards human wildlife conflict mitigation – hunting of buffalos is their only source of income.
Mwilima said Bamunu Conservancy members have saved enough money over the past three years to purchase four transformers to connect their villages to the national power grid of Nampower.
He said the transformers – at a cost of N$100 000 apiece – are very expensive, but they felt it was a good thing to do.
At first the five villages each received N$10 000, but they later opted to save the money to purchase something worthwhile for the community.
From 2011 – when Bamunu Conservancy was gazetted – until 2015 the conservancy generated a whopping N$31 million from hunting.
Last year alone it made N$8.5 million from hunting. Mwilima said before the conservancy was gazetted in 2011 subsistence poaching within the conservancy was very high.
“We introduced a professional hunter to operate in the conservancy and since then there has been barely any poaching, as members have started to see the benefits of protecting wildlife.
“If hunting is stopped we will see an increase of poaching again,” Mwilima argued.
The conservancy employs 50 staff members, of which seven are game guards.
The conservancy is located on the main road some 65 km west of Katima Mulilo in the Chinchimane area of the Sibbinda Constituency and boasts an abundance of wildlife, as it borders the Mudumu and Nkasa Lupala national parks, as well as Botswana in the south.
Chairperson of the conservancy Chunga Chunga told New Era that through the community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) programme, rural Namibians have gained rights over wildlife and tourism and are generating income from the sustainable use of wildlife and there has been a remarkable recovery and increase in wildlife populations.
Although communities continue to benefit from wildlife conservation, human wildlife conflict is a predicament many continue to face, with unprecedented destruction of both crop fields and property, and even loss of lives a common occurrence.
Hilma Angula of the World Wildlife Fund, who presented the annual conservancy audit report to the management committees at various conservancies last week, said the CBNRM interventions provide the institutional framework for communal residents to manage wildlife and the benefits derived from it.
With the approach of adaptive management, she said tourism is the mechanism by which wildlife is given market value: “CBNRM policies strengthened trophy hunting, and later photographic tourism, which eventually led to the recognition that wildlife was in many instances a more effective tool to attract visitors.”
“Tourism is the economic driver for CBNRM, as it provides financial revenues to local communities through direct and indirect employment opportunities and direct payments to community-based organisations for hunting and photographic concessionary access,” Angula said.