Last month, our family had the pleasure of attending an authentic Braai (barbeque) in the beautiful Parliament Gardens of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. There were tribal groups who were performing traditional dances and displaying their artistic crafts in addition to a vast buffet of food and drink. To top it off, we were graced with the presence of President Pohamba. The groups were celebrating the success of Namibia Community Conservancies.
At the beginning of this opening ceremony for the Adventure Travel World Summit, President Pohamba was awarded the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Gift to the Earth Award for continuing to support Namibia community conservancies. If you do not know about the concept of community conservancies, it is actually an innovative way for governments to allow local self-efficacy and social empowerment – among other direct effects of preserving land for future generations.
Established directly after the country’s independence from South Africa in 1990, the visionary leadership of the time not only wrote environmental protection provisions into the constitution but also established these self-governing community conservancies in an effort to increase wildlife conservation, community cooperation and economic opportunities in this sparsely populated nation.
Namibia Community Communities were put in charge of how their land would be used (whether for tourism, hunting, or industry) and in return, they would reap the social, economic and environmental consequences of their decisions.
Over the course of twenty-three years, various strategic partnerships have incorporated a combination of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sector companies and government-led programs that provide the necessary skills for responsible land development.
The result is that today, close to 20% of Namibia is managed by community conservancies where local residents have the same rights to utilize wildlife and plant life (including the development of medicines and perfumes) as private farmers.
Tribal communities are a controlling part of the political process, which in turn creates a sense of responsibility and transparency. As an added benefit, unlike other areas of Africa, wildlife populations are recovering in Namibia, including increasing populations of elephants (increased to 20,000 in 2013 from 15,000 in 1995), black rhinos, cheetahs, and lions.
Namibia Community Conservancies have also provided the foundation for the development of more than 34 joint venture lodges, 44 hunting (not poaching) concessions and approximately 200 enterprises that have generated more than USD $36 million in benefits to communities since 1998.
At a time when fighting over land, water, wildlife, and political stability have become commonplace, Namibia offers a visionary policy that is an example for the world.