Namibia has 26 parks and reserves that help to preserve and protect rare and endangered species. This has been very important for conservation since almost half of all species in Namibia are of some conservation concern. The Conservancies have helped to expand migration corridors and increase the perceived value of wildlife which has helped to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and increase economic development in ecotourism. Many wildlife populations are now on the rebound including black rhino, elephant, lion and cheetah.
The Communal Conservancy Tourism Sector is now a dynamic and integral part of Namibia’s tourism industry. There are currently 44 Joint-Ventures working with Conservancies countrywide. This total includes 29 Joint-Venture lodges and campgrounds, another 4 that are operating in principal without a formal agreement, and 11 that are in active negotiation with Conservancies.
Four different types of Communal Conservancies tourism operations/ventures are featured herein including:
Namibia has a wealth of material arts manufactured from natural resources which include basketry, beadwork, carvings, tapestry and textile weaving. Traditionally produced as functional household items, the production of arts and crafts for the tourist market creates income for local residents, especially women.
Several community-owned campsites exist throughout Namibia. They provide an accessible and affordable option for travelers to explore Namibia, and they provide revenue for the communities that operate them.
Some 29 joint-venture lodges and campsites operate in partnership with more than 30 Communal Conservancies. They provide travelers with a range of options—from luxurious eco-lodges to more rustic tent camps. This in turn provides adjacent communities with more than 1000 jobs and a secure source of revenue.
A number of villages openly share their traditions with outsiders. This helps to conserve Namibia’s cultural heritage while providing a source of employment and revenue for local communities.
One of the many tasks facing the newly independent Government of Namibia in the early 1990s was to improve the management of wildlife resources, which were severely decimated due to poor management and armed conflict in the 1980s. After independence, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism strove to empower rural people in communal areas. Legislation was introduced in 1996 to allow for the formation of Communal Conservancies “to promote activities that demonstrate that sustainably managed natural resources can result in social development and economic growth, and in suitable partnership between local communities and government.”
The remarkable restoration of wildlife that has occurred in most communal areas over the last decade has been facilitated by a sense of ownership over the resources and direct benefits from managing them. The Government of Namibia has been extremely innovative in managing its natural resources and improving the quality of life of its rural population. Communal Conservancies are now taking a leadership role in preserving large landscapes and safeguarding a Namibian environmental identity by conserving indigenous species in large, unfenced areas. This approach is providing a growing number of travelers with authentic experiences that are not only unique to Namibia but unique to Africa as well.
Namibia’s progressive policies and planning have resulted in one of the greatest wildlife recovery stories on earth. Populations of rare and endangered species such as black rhino, sable antelope and black-faced impala have recovered through natural recruitment In addition, more than 7,000 head of more common species, are being translocated from national parks to registered Communal Conservancies around Namibia. Comparable examples in other countries of successful translocations and range expansions of rare species are rare, leading conservationists from around the world to look to Namibia for lessons to apply back home.
Communal Conservancies have been established in almost all regions of Namibia. They cover almost 17 percent of the land area and work with over 230,000 rural residents. The approach has proven to be a valuable conservation strategy and an effective rural development strategy, generating income for local Conservancies, bringing new jobs and providing new skills and expertise.
Between 1998 and 2008, income from Joint-Venture tourism in Communal Conservancies increased by a factor of 42. This increase stems from the Government of Namibia’s commitment to the devolution of rights over wildlife and resources. In the process, communities are benefiting in ways previously unimaginable, and travelers who are willing to get a little off-the-beaten-path are experiencing the trip of a lifetime.
Until the mid-1990s wildlife in much of Namibia was diminishing at a rapid rate and unemployment in rural communities was very high. Since that time, many of the animal populations have doubled, and job opportunities and the quality of life have markedly increased for local people. The story of Namibia’s Communal Conservancies is one of the world’s greatest conservation success stories ever told. This is also the story of one of Africa’s most successful community tourism ventures.
Namibia was the first country in the world to specifically address habitat conservation and the protection of natural resources in its constitution. This led to the Government of Namibia giving its communities the opportunity and rights to establish communal conservancies, manage their wildlife and other natural resources, and share the related benefits. This level of empowerment and local community control laid the foundation for the establishment of the Namibia’s Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Programme. CBNRM is a globally recognized model for achieving community benefit at scale while supporting rural development and environmental conservation at the same time.
Encompassing more than 16 percent of Namibia’s landmass and covering 132,697 km² of prime wildlife habitat, the Conservancy movement has grown dramatically over the past decade. Currently there are 59 participating registered communities with more than 230,000 members, and another 30 communities in the process of applying through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Economic value to communities has increased simultaneously. Following the registration of the first four Conservancies in 1998, income and benefits have grown dramatically, from less than N$600,000 in 1998 to N$41.9 million (US$5.7 million) in 2008. This growth largely stems from tourism and the increasing number of travelers seeking out remote wildlands of Namibia, much of which are now covered by Communal Conservancies.
Many of the Communal Conservancies contain spectacular scenery, rich cultures and burgeoning wildlife populations. Within the Communal Conservancies, there are also an increasing number of Joint-Venture lodges and campsites. These Joint-Ventures are unique in that they work in collaboration with their host communities to achieve both conservation and economic development objectives at a local level, and they share in the profits of the enterprise.
Take some time to review the diverse array of lodging options, from community owned campsites that provide an accessible and affordable way for travelers to experience Namibia to luxury lodges that feature the finest amenities. No matter how you choose to explore Namibia, rest assured you’ll have a positive impact on the people you meet and the places you visit if you stay at the places listed on this site.