Conservancy windfalls: A tale of contradictions

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Desie Heita
Windhoek

Namibia’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources recently launched a most scathing critique on the country’s national policy on human-wildlife conflict management, turning the longstanding policy on its head.
It was found that government’s glorious public reports on earnings and benefits derived from community-based conservancies are in a stark contrast to the facts on the ground.
The consequences of human-wildlife conflict are causing much more serious social and material damage to poor rural communities that are supposedly benefiting from the wildlife conservancies.
As a result, the committee made recommendations, chief of which is to conduct “a genuine review of the community-based natural resources programme, because its lofty promises seemed to have been jettisoned during the implementation process”.
The other recommendation is that the Environment Ministry “should expedite a review of the National Policy on Human-Wildlife Conflict Management with a view to incorporating fair and commensurate compensation to victims of human-wildlife conflict”.
“The revised policy should take into account views expressed in this report,” read part of the recommendations in the report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources on October 14, 2016.
The report is hand-signed by all but one of the members of parliament who made up the committee. They signatories are Marina Kandumbu, Agnes Kafula, Annakleta Sikerete, Liina Namupala, Salmon Fleermuys, Vipuakuje Mahaurukua, Clara //Gowasses and Margaret Mahoto.
The report was presented during the first human-wildlife management conference in Windhoek this week and brought into question the statement by Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta during the opening of the same event, in which he said the 82 registered conservancies in the country are “benefiting thousands of our rural communities through employment, cash income, social projects and in-kind benefits”.
Shifeta also said income earned by conservancies makes a significant contribution to rural development. However, in their report the MPs noted that some communities are not happy with meagre income 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 MPS concluded. “The overly positive narrative about community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) does not reflect reality on the ground or in the communities,” reads the report.
The report also shot down the 2014/15 State of Community Conservation in Namibia report that claimed community conservation contributed about N$4,15 billion to Namibia’s net national income between 1990 and 2014 and that in 2014 community conservancies generated about N$91,2 million in returns for local communities.
“If so much money is generated by the CBNRM programme, then conservancies should be able to pay fair compensation to victims of human-wildlife conflict and pay decent living wages to their few employees,” the report noted.
The committee members consulted communities in the Zambezi, Kunene, Kavango East and West regions during the period April to May 2016. It was there that they learned that the money paid as compensation for the loss of livestock and crops due to wildlife is not sufficient.
Notably, compensation for the loss of human life is N$5,000, while the highest compensatory amount for lost livestock is N$1,500.
Other concerns expressed were that compensation is only offered when the livestock destroyed were in a kraal or the crops in the field. There is no compensation for livestock lost in the field or crops destroyed in silos.
The MPs recommended that the tourism ministry consider real empowerment of communal communities to have full control of their conservancies when it comes to running their own lodges and conducting own trophy hunting.
Because of the dangers posed by wild animals to people – especially young children – the committee recommended that the Environment Ministry erect a fence that is wildlife-proof around all communal conservancies.
It also should be fast in responding to incidents of such conflict. It further proposed that the ministry decentralise its decision-making powers to enable regional officials to decide what to do in case of human-wildlife confrontation.
The Environment Ministry has also been implored to investigate reports of the alleged killing of livestock that stray into Etosha.
The recommendation regarding the killing of human beings by such animals is that government should consider maintaining the dependants of victims of such incidents until they are 21 years old.
The committee cautioned that many communal people perceive the wildlife in these conservancies as being government property and this is the reason why many of them demand compensation whenever such animals cause damage to their property.

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