This article was written by Victoria Amon, NACSO intern in August 2019
The CBNRM programme in Namibia has a proud conservation record. It was developed and is run by rural communities living in communal areas, with assistance from the MET (Ministry of Environment and Tourism) [which later became the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism], NACSO (Namibia Association of CBNRM Support Organisations) and partner organisations.
Every year, NACSO plays host to visitors from other countries’ governmental and non-governmental organisations that come to learn about the CBNRM (Community Based Natural Resource Management) programme in Namibia.
The visits are an advantage to both parties, because Namibia also learns about conservation practices in other parts of the world. Over the past few years, NACSO has hosted visitors from Mozambique, Nepal, Uganda and Tanzania.
Early in March 2019, NACSO hosted a group of government officials from Nepal, who came to share CBNRM experiences and specifically to understand the approach adopted by Namibia to encourage community-based tourism.
The visit came just one month after Nepal held a conference to exchange and explore different models of sustainable and inclusive tourism in protected areas. At the conference, Teofelus Ntinda from the Namibia Development Trust represented NACSO as a coalition of organisations that supports sustainable conservation in Namibia.
The goal of the study tour from Nepal was to expose delegates to the Namibian model of sustainable and inclusive tourism. Key areas of interest were the development of tourism in protected areas such as national parks and public/private investment in these tourism ventures. The role of government and conservation NGOs in planning tourism joint ventures was of major interest.
Exchange visits usually start off with induction meetings, where both parties learn about the fundamentals and technical operations of CBNRM in their respective countries, followed by field visits to get a first-hand experience of conservancy operations and learn from the people on the ground.
After an induction meeting at the NACSO office in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, the visitors from Nepal were accompanied by NACSO Director, Maxi Louis, on a 3 day field visit to some of the conservancies in Zambezi Region.
They were welcomed by the Mashi and Salambala Conservancy members, advisers, members of the traditional authorities and the conservancy game guards. The Chairperson of Salambala Conservancy gave an overview of governance structures, natural resources management and tourism related activities, and emphasised the importance of benefit distribution to conservancy members. The conservancies also explained how they develop and utilise management plans, including zonation of land uses for wildlife, grazing for livestock, photographic tourism and hunting.
During the visit, the Nepalese group also met with representatives of a private sector lodge, which has invested in joint venture tourism operations with the conservancy. The delegates learned about the relationship between conservancies and private sector tour operators, known as tourism joint ventures (JV). Information was shared with the group about the guidelines used to set up agreements, especially concerning the decision making process for paying fees to the conservancy as part of the lodge’s responsibilities. The Nepalese participants said that they would like to learn more about the joint-venture investment model.
While in Windhoek, two of the delegates gave an insight into CBNRM and tourism attractions in Nepal. It was clear from their presentations that tourism services offered by each country differ due to the countries’ cultural backgrounds and physical features. Nepal is mostly characterised by mountains, hills and glaciers, in contrast with Namibia’s mostly arid and semi-arid flat lands. However, one thing is the same in both countries: the desire to promote initiatives that promote sustainable community-based tourism.
Since 2010, when the first sharing and learning exchange platform took place between Namibia and Nepal, the two countries have formed a mutual relationship which enables interactive learning about community conservation and conservation in general. So far, there have been 5 learning visits which happened between the years 2010-2019.
In 2012, ten study tour participants travelled from Namibia to Nepal to share CBNRM experiences with counterpart Nepalese parliamentarians, governmental representatives, NGOs, and community members.
The purpose of the study tour was to assist Namibian parliamentarians and conservation practioners to learn from the Nepal CBNRM Programme and see what might be replicable in Namibia, while at the same time assisting Nepalese stakeholders to build upon their understanding of Namibia’s governance framework and CBNRM Programme.
Specifically, Namibians wanted to learn about the history of conservation in Nepal and the institutions and systems that support it, and benefit distribution. Along with the management of national parks and the development of tourism, there were similarities between Nepal’s and Namibia’s CBNRM, but Nepal also operates credit unions and promotes the use of biogas from livestock. Namibia would like to strengthen the use of biogas in conservancies and hopefully replicate the project in other parts of the country.
WWF-Nepal organised a mix of meetings and social functions with key Nepalese stakeholders: parliamentarians, government officials and WWF staff at the onset of the visit. Travel to a series of sites was organised for meetings with community forest committees, national park staff, park buffer zone communities, representatives of a community credit union, community and cultural tourism operations, and the WWF field office.
Upon return to the capital, Kathmandu, a session was organised with the Nepal Parliamentarian Natural Resources and Means Committee. During this session, representatives from both sides gave presentations on how their respective parliaments support natural resource management. In addition, Namibia gave a presentation on how communities are involved in natural resource management through communal conservancies. Lastly, courtesy visits were made to both the office of the Speaker of the Nepal Parliamentary House and the President of Nepal, His Excellency Dr. Ram BaranYadav.
Through CBNRM, Nepal has the potential to unlock its country’s natural beauty to tourists, and at the same time open up opportunities to those who live with wildlife. Likewise, Namibia had an opportunity to learn more about Nepal’s sustainable mechanisms of biogas development and about credit unions: how they are formed and used to support economic growth in community forests.
Both study tours in Namibia and Nepal were highly successful and further reinforced the excellent learning possibilities that exist between the two countries.