Income to people
Income to conservancy members comes from a wide variety of sources. Conservation, in addition to existing livelihood options, such as farming, has provided new income sources, such as:
- employment in JV lodges, where many staff are now moving into management positions;
- employment in community campsites or as tourism guides;
- employment by conservancies, which include managers, secretaries, game guards and others;
- employment in conservation hunting as guides, trackers and skinners;
- a growth in craft sales due to an increase in outlets and improved marketing;
- harvesting and sale of indigenous natural products such as devil’s claw, used in the alternative medicine and pharmaceutical industry.
This diversification of income has reduced reliance on subsistence farming, which is increasingly precarious due to desertification and climate change.
Meat: a major benefit
A very important benefit to conservancy residents is meat harvested from wildlife, under a quota system based upon game counts and a scientific assessment of the sustainable off-take rate.
Finding a balance between the sustainable harvesting of game and the distribution of benefits, including meat, often in periods of drought, is a challenge that faces many of Namibia’s communal conservancies.
Fish brings food and income
Fish is an important food source for many people in northern Namibia, and is also sold at markets for cash. Both commercial fishing and sport angling require licences, and issuing these can generate income for communities. Recreational catch-and-release angling within fish reserves represents an important income opportunity, generated from rod fees charged by tourism lodges, which share the income with communities.
Lodges that market sport angling as a key activity, especially for popular sport fish such as tigerfish, catfish and bream, can create a variety of additional returns for communities. However, illegal fishing, using nets across rivers, has put fish stocks under considerable pressure. In two conservancies in the north-east, fish sanctuaries have been established, which are patrolled by fish guards.
Income is generated from two major sources: the issuing of permits for grazing and harvesting in community forests, and the sustainable wild harvesting and sale of non-timber products. Non-timber products include thatching grass and produce from plants such as devil’s claw and Commiphora. The growth of this sector is likely to continue as new species with commercial potential are investigated and developed. Strategic agreements with international cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies represent significant economic opportunities. The harvesting of the resources is an important source of income for a growing number of people.
Visitors to communal areas are able to buy unique Namibian crafts directly from the producers. The sale of crafts, the development of craft outlets and links to wholesalers have provided many rural residents, especially women, with an independent source of income.
Investment in the rural economy is strengthened, as conservancies are becoming significant local spenders. Prior to the inception of community conservation, the revenue generated by tourism and other sectors was significantly lower, and almost all of it was taken out of the area by businesses based in urban centres. Now, an increasing proportion of the returns generated stays with the communities in the communal areas.