"In order to conserve natural resources, people need to benefit from them. This is why benefit distribution is important so that people become more interested in conservation"
- Ester Petrus, King Nehale Conservancy
If communities are to live together with wildlife, to offset losses from crop raiders such as elephants and predators, including lions, they need to receive benefits in return. These come from tourism and associated income, including crafts, and from conservation hunting.
In kind benefits are also provided by community conservation. These are meat to households from conservation hunting, and benefits such as housing and transport provided by tourism enterprises.
Benefits distributed by conservancies to members stand at about 20% of conservancy income as an average. Any benefits can only be paid after costs have been met, including office expenses, vehicles and salaries – especially to game guards. The proportion of benefits paid – against costs – is a matter for conservancies to determine in their committees and at their AGMs. Conservancies are self-governing bodies. However the MEFT and NACSO would like to see the proportion of income paid out as benefits rise to an average of 30%, and as much as 50% may be possible for high earning conservancies.
Analysis of the returns facilitated by conservancies
Income from community enterprises and returns from the private sector generate direct cash income for households through sales and wages, including fringe benefits (e.g. staff housing) and donations to the community. Conservancy income is used to fund social benefits (e.g. education, health), make cash payments to members, and pay wages of conservancy staff. Conservancies also distribute meat of considerable value to households. Capital developments are investments in conservancy infrastructure. Further conservancy income is spent on running costs, e.g. office, vehicle, which increased sharply in 2016 and 2017.
There has been a concerted effort by the CBNRM programme to encourage conservancies to invest more into community projects and human-wildlife conflict mitigation. Some conservancies add considerable sums to the MEFT’s Self Reliance Scheme, which makes offset payments to farmers who have suffered crop and livestock losses to wildlife. Others have invested in community infrastructure, including electricity transformers.
Community benefits include:
- Water infrastructure
- Agricultural equipment
- Diesel for boreholes
- School buildings
- Bursaries for students
- Assistance to the elderly
- Funeral assistance
While it is understandable that conservancies incur management costs, specifically wages, there are conservancies that can and should improve on their benefit distribution allocation. This is a measure of good governance. Conservancies also run the risk of losing membership support for conservation if ordinary members who do not receive meaningful benefits.
» Read more about Community benefits
» Read more about Household income and benefits