Namibia – community-based natural resource management and conservancies sustain natural areas

Namibia – community-based natural resource management and conservancies sustain natural areas

In former times, when farmers had few rights to use wildlife, wild animals were seen as little more than a threat to livestock, crops and infrastructure, as well as community safety. Thus, conservation management took place within protected areas only. In 1967 the commercial rights over wildlife and indigenous plants were given to Namibia’s commercial farmers. The implementation of these rights resulted in wildlife being utilised and valued (“What pays that stays”) by the private sector. People in communal areas received the same rights much later (1996-2001) when policies were adopted to promote community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). Since then the wildlife sector was also driven into a rapid growth on communal land.

In addition to community-based tourism, a large number of commercial farmers established free-hold conservancies and tourism enterprises on private lands, too. In contrast to community-based tourism, commercial conservancies are not supported by the government in any way. Thus, they need to function self-sufficient from the first day. Two well-established examples are the N/a’an ku sê Foundation and NamibRand Nature Reserve – see websites below. The latter one belongs to the Long Run Initiative.

Namibia’s environment is the cornerstone of its tourism industry – looking after it today ensures it is there for tourism tomorrow. Today, about 46% of Namibia’s surface area is under conservation management. This includes national parks and game reserves (19%), communal conservancies and other community conservation (20%), as well as commercial conservancies, private nature reserves and tourism concessions (7%). Another 3% of Namibia are restricted areas (diamond mining in the Southwest of the country).

Community-based tourism in Namibia is based on the joint-venture principle: private sector tourism operators join hands with communal conservancies to build and run lodges, campsites and tours on sustainable principles. High-quality lodges and activities bring income to conservancies which protect wildlife and the environment.

To live with wildlife means striving for balanced land use and a healthy environment. The game does not need to be eradicated from a landscape because it may pose a threat to crops or livestock. Wildlife can create a great range of returns that far exceed its costs. Various types of tourism such as photographic safaris, excursions, adventure tours, research expeditions and even trophy hunting are important tools to reach this goal. Namibia’s CBNRM  Programme was selected as a finalist in the 2010 Tourism For Tomorrow Awards by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Namibia harbours various flagship species like elephant and rhino, as well as the world’s highest population of cheetahs, and it is one of a few African countries that support six species of large carnivores. Lions, spotted hyenas and wild dogs are mainly restricted to protected areas, but cheetahs, leopards and brown hyenas still occur in areas with intensive livestock and/or game farming. Ensuing conflicts between humans and wildlife need to be solved. Nature-interested travellers contribute to various research and education programmes and they support nature conservation financially.

More and more conservancies shall become self-sufficient. A substantial number of conservancies that used to be dependent to some degree on grant aid shall cover their operational costs from own income in the future.

Community-based conservation may grow to a larger number of conservancies up to 90 or 100. As a result, significant further growth of tourism in Namibia shall be facilitated.

Although Namibia has its entire coastline protected through a National Parks network, marine biodiversity is currently essentially unprotected. The status of two marine reserves, which cover less than 1% of Namibia’s marine environment, needs clarification and augmentation with new Marine Protected Areas.

In the mid-nineties, ground-breaking legislation in Namibia laid the foundation for a new approach to natural resource management and conservation. By forming conservancies people in communal areas can actively manage and generate returns from natural resources. This supports environmental restoration, and wildlife populations have increased significantly. As a result, economic benefits to local people through tourism have grown. To see the happiness on the faces of the people whose lives have been improved by the Namibian conservancy programme is the ultimate testimony of success.

The communal conservancy programme has taken Namibia by storm and it has become the most successful CBNRM initiative on the planet. Currently, there are 82 registered communal conservancies, one community conservation association in a National Park, 15 concessions in National Parks or on other state lands, 32 community forests, 66 community rangeland management areas and three community fish reserves in Namibia.

The communal conservancy tourism sector represents a dynamic part of benefit creation within the CBNRM programme. The rapid growth of joint-venture tourism investments and the impressive benefits that are being produced by this sector are distinctly unique to Namibia.

One of the main lessons from the Namibian conservancy programme is that devolving authority over wildlife and tourism to local communities as well as private farmers can work in practice.

Other countries could learn from Namibia to engage visionary conservationists in the field and to enact policy changes by the government that allows rural communities to benefit from wildlife by forming conservancies.

UK creating three of the largest marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world ?

LT&C-partner Mission Blue recently published the following great news:

Dr. Sylvia Earle was recently at Ascension Island to urge the British Government to safeguard the maritime zones of the UK’s overseas territories by creating three of the largest marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world. The United Kingdom has jurisdiction over the fifth largest maritime zone in the world – an area of ocean nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself. The three MPAs proposed would more than double the size of existing protected areas in the ocean. That’s one step closer to the Mission Blue goal of 20% Ocean Conservation by 2020!

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LT&C-Study Tour “Cleaning the shores of Spitsbergen” 2015

glacier-mouth-krossfjorden-svalbard_e178-2200x1472pxIf you want to see, where LT&C once started, or if you have never been in the Arctic, or if you want to make a very special present to a friend, or if you just want to be active yourself for the environment on Svalbard, get inspired by the High Arctic nature and observe polar bears on the sea ice, you should look at the below offer of LT&C member Oceanwide Expeditions and register for the expedition through LT&C.
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Svalbard – The establishment of national parks and nature reserves through stakeholder collaboration, maintained by tourism

Svalbard – The establishment of national parks and nature reserves through stakeholder collaboration, maintained by tourism

Coinciding with Norway’s celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the Svalbard Treaty and the country’s sovereignty over the 62,700 km2 far north archipelago in 1995, a major threat to the pristine wilderness appeared. A coal company planned to construct the first long-distance road through the archipelago’s largest green tundra area known as Reindalen. The implementation of that plan would have been the first in a series of infrastructure events that would have had extremely negative consequences for the future of Svalbard. And in particular other Svalbard Treaty members could have insisted on their right to follow that example of Norway and build their own roads and produce related damage to nature. This served as the impetus of the formation of a coalition of conservation NGOs (WWF, Friends of the Earth Norway (NNV) and Birdlife Norway (NOF)) and tourism bodies (the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT), and later the Dutch “Oceanwide Expeditions”, Svalbard Polar Travel and German “Spitzbergen Tours”). A campaign entitled “No Road trough Svalbard Wilderness!” was started. A four-page folder was produced and people were asked to send a postcard to the Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

The time was right and the unique coalition produced incredible political weight and results. Approximately 4000 postcards were sent to protest the Svea road and they had an impact on the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting. The first reaction of the Government was to put the road on ice when their white paper on the future of Svalbard was discussed in the Parliament. The Storting then formulated the Norwegian State Goal to make “Svalbard the best-managed Wilderness area in the world” and requested the Government to put in particular Svalbard’s tundra areas, such as Reindalen, under better protection in form of new national parks.

What was the outcome of this tourism-conservation coalition?

A series of new national parks (in addition to formerly existing ones, which protected glaciers and bare mountain areas) covering the main tundra and other valuable areas have been established. Today, almost the entire archipelago is protected with 7 national parks and 21 nature reserves. The Government of Norway released a special environmental law, with a particular focus on keeping the pristine wilderness. In addition, the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund has been established. Today, about 60 000 tourists come to Svalbard by plane or ship and are required to pay a fee of 150 NOK. This fee is placed into the environment fund, which is used every year in a transparent way for education, cultural heritage, information, nature conservation and research projects for the management of tourism and protected areas. Therefore, Svalbard is not only one of the best-protected wilderness areas, it serves also as a leading LT&C example.

Svalbard is a good example for all 3 reasons:
a) Joined political action of both tour operators and conservation NGOs resulted in new national parks;
b) Entrance fees are used in a transparent and efficient way and are used for projects and initiatives with the purpose of protecting the environment.
c) Several tour operators with their highly skilled guides are doing a great job educating tourists about the values and importance of Svalbard’s nature and its protection. Svalbard is increasingly visited and used to inspire people toward actions for nature conservation and caring for our global environment.

It would be important that the use of the Svalbard entrance fees and the projects of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund will be more concretely explained and illustrated to tourists. The authorities behind the Fund could do a better job to increase the transparency of the use of the tourist entrance fee. LT&C could play a facilitation role in this respect to make the Svalbard example even more attractive for replication elsewhere.

The success of the joint action of tourism and conservation on Svalbard was already shared in some way with other Arctic regions when, under the coordination of WWF, a larger group of companies, agencies and experts from both tourism and conservation produced a set of Arctic Tourism Guidelines. They were translated into several languages and distributed in the entire circumpolar Arctic and called “Linking Tourism and Conservation in the Arctic”.

For a number of years an award, sponsored by the Finnish conservationist Heidi Andersen, was given to a tour operator, which demonstrated convincing examples of Linking Tourism and Conservation in the Arctic. These guidelines and related activities could be in the future revitalised to produce impact in other parts of the Arctic. The concrete potential for using the Svalbard example can be seen for the neighbouring Russian Arctic National Park, including the Franz Josef Land archipelago. The transparent entry fee system for concert management of the parks could be applied there as well for other parks in the world. Bringing park managers and decision makers to Svalbard could inspire them to learn and replicate elements of the Svalbard LT&C example.