Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NEWS: Conservancies Pay Local Dividends

Namibia: National Wildlife Conservancy Pays Local Dividends

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks Watching a small heard of elephants cross the narrow dirt road and disappear among the high trees into the Namibian bush was as much a joy for John Haingura as the four tourists he was escorting to their camp site near his village.

"We used to be angry with the elephants when they destroyed our crops, but now we show them to tourists," said Haingura. His family benefits from a community-based conservation programme introduced by the government a decade ago in remote game-rich areas in northwestern Namibia.

The initiative encourages communities to protect their local wildlife by allowing them to share in the financial benefits of tourism. It has been so successful that community-based sanctuaries now cover 13 percent of Namibian territory, and the country's 44th conservancy was opened in February near the Okavango River in northeastern Namibia.

"Conservancies decide how to spend income from wildlife and tourism," said Leon Jooste, Namibia's deputy minister of environment and tourism. "They can pay dividends to individual households or use income for community development projects like water wells, better roads or better housing."

Before the conservancies, local communities often viewed wildlife as competitors because they trampled crops and killed livestock, but still received protection from the authorities.

"Government realised that this was discriminatory, and amended legislation in 1996 to allow the rural population to receive benefits from wildlife and other natural resources through the establishment of conservancies," explained Jooste.

Over 100,000 rural people are benefiting from the conservancies, according to Chris Brown, nature conservation consultant at the Namibia Nature Foundation. The initiative is supported by the US Agency for International Development and the World Wildlife Fund.

"The application and registration process at the ministry of environment requires criteria like community involvement, training of community game guards, management skills, and management plans must be drawn up to obtain approval by the authorities," said Brown.

Training is provided by various agencies, including the Namibia Community Based Tourism Association and the Namibian Association of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Support Agencies (NACSO).

Conservancies generated US $2.4 million for rural communities in 2004, a healthy growth from just US $190,000 in 1998. Half the amount was direct cash income, and "the remainder came in the form of employment wages and other in-kind benefits, such as meat from trophy hunting," said a NACSO overview.

Torra Conservancy in Damaraland, in northwestern Namibia, generates enough income to cover all its expenses and make a profit for its 450 members. "We still farm with our goats, but certain areas are for the wildlife only. We have created separate water points for the wild animals, thanks to the income from tourism," said Andreas Taniseb, a member of the community committee.

In a recent radio interview with the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation, Taniseb commented, "I can afford the school fees, books and school uniforms for my four children, and the oldest we can send to a secondary school in Windhoek [the capital] next year."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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