One of the many tasks facing the newly independent Namibia Government in the early 1990s was to evolve a structure for the management of wildlife resources. The South African administration had granted commercial farmers some rights over wildlife, but these rights did not extend to communal areas. During the armed struggle many animals were hunted almost to extinction, and communal farmers were often in conflict with animals such as hippos and elephants which damaged their crops, and therefore adversely affected their livelihoods.
The idea of a national Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) support structure emerged in the early 1990s, through the efforts of the Living in a Finite Environment (LIFE) programme in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and several NGOs. International support was received from WWF, USAID and the UK Government's Department for International Development. The objective was and still is "to promote activities that demonstrate that sustainable managed natural resources can result in social development and economic growth, and in suitable partnership between local communities and government."
To provide a structure for the CBNRM concept to develop, legislation was tabled in 1996 to allow for the formation of communal conservancies. These conservancies would take responsibility for the natural resources, mainly wildlife, within their boundaries by monitoring numbers and preventing poaching, but it was essential that they should perceive wildlife as a valuable resource. This they did, for attracting tourists and for hunting in a managed and sustainable way. The Conservancy movement has been a great success, and there are now over 50 registered Conservancies in Namibia, and several in the process or registration.
LEAD initiated the Conservancy Support Programme through funding from LEAD’s core donor EED and the Embassy of Finland. It is designed to provide training (to conservancies, conservancy support organizations, local authorities and other stakeholders) legal advice, advocacy, conduct a fencing research as well as awareness raising through local language radio on conservancy issues.
Through the Conservancy Support Programme, training was provided to some of the 50 registered conservancies as well as conservancy support organizations on issues such as good governance, development and amendment of constitutions, conducting elections, and annual general meetings, policies, laws, financial decision making & benefit distribution etc. This training provided the conservancy members with the knowledge to tackle the challenges faced, as for the conservancy support organizations such as MET, they became better equipped to assist the conservancies.
Legal Advice & Representation
The programme is also provides much needed legal advice which is normally unaffordable by many as it is too expensive was accessible. Through this programme, conservancies and the support organizations were able to access this service at no cost.
LEAD is also instrumental in writing and reviewing of conservancy and community based organisation constitutions and joint venture agreements. Additionally, LEAD is often called in to resolve conservancy disputes.
An Example of Legal Advice & Representation
The northern part of the N≠a Jaqna Conservancy (a third of the entire conservancy area) is earmarked for small scale commercial resettlement farm development, each measuring 2,500 hectares. However, the conservancy feels that their objections to the development of these farms have not been considered by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement. In several meetings held concerning the development of small scale farms, the Conservancy Membership expressed their concerns which have been passed over by the Management Committee of the Conservancy to the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement but no response or feedback has been received to date.
In 2008, LEAD assisted N≠a Jaqna Conservancy by procuring a legal opinion on the development of small scale commercial resettlement farms in the conservancy area. Additionally, LEAD’s project lawyer and coordinator met with the N≠a Jaqna conservancy committee and held a meeting with the new Minister of Lands and Resettlement on the future of the conservancy including the impact of the ministries planned small scale farming units which would affect the conservancy plans.
The matter is pending.