Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilience Facility (CRRRF)
Providing emergency support during a global pandemic
Since the first State of the Community Conservation report was published in 2004, each consecutive year, the report has detailed the growth, challenges and opportunities that have come to define Namibia’s Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme. In 2020, the programme was expected to build on its successes, particularly in tourism. Namibia’s tourism industry anticipated the arrival of 1.7 million visitors, predicted to generate N$ 26,4 billion (11.7% of overall GDP), and support over 123,000 jobs (16.4% of total employment).
Then COVID-19 struck. The world went into lockdown, and these expectations were dashed. Overnight, tourist arrivals stopped, and a substantial amount of funding for conservation in Namibia vanished. As new bans restricted travel, thousands of people lost their jobs, and thousands more jobs were at risk, increasing their vulnerability to hunger and economic hardship. Hit hardest were rural areas, where a six-year drought had already threatened many livelihoods. The 30-year effort to build Namibia’s communal conservancy programme was under severe threat.
The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) took bold step of launching the Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilience Facility (CRRRF) to ensure a coordinated response to the crisis.
The CRRRF task team reached out to their supporters to raise an initial combined target of approximately N$ 46 million for communal conservancies. These funds were earmarked to secure salaries for conservancy game guards (including rhino rangers) and other fundamental conservancy operating costs. Conservancy staff members collectively support more than 6,000 family members, while their work supports the wildlife economy that generates an estimated US$ 8 million per annum to these rural areas. Supporting game guards and rhino rangers is thus in line with broader goals of poverty eradication, food security and the sustainable future of rural communities.
In June 2020, emergency grants for 84 conservancies and 1 Association were agreed to. The first payments of N$ 6,619,500 were disbursed to conservancies in the first quarter (May-July 2020) for salaries, management committee stipends and operating costs. The essential costs that were covered included anti-poaching patrols and human-wildlife conflict mitigation.
By the end of 2020, conservancies had received N$ 18,918,797 through the Facility from various sources. Of all registered conservancies, only two conservancies had not received funds due to existing governance issues. All the other conservancies were able to pay 670 community game guards, 421 other conservancy staff their salaries and maintain basic natural resource management and administration operations despite experiencing significant income shortfalls in 2020.
Local partners managed to successfully raise N$ 25 million of the targeted N$ 46 million. In addition to filling the funding gap for conservancy operations, these funds were directed towards community-based business enterprises (e.g. joint-venture lodges, small- to medium enterprises and craft centres) to ensure local employee retention.
In good times, these business enterprises and partnerships are the income generators of conservancies and pay the costs of conservation, including the deployment of the game guards. If the partnerships do not survive the pandemic, then conservancies will become dependent on donor funds or otherwise collapse. CRRRF thus provided financial assistance for the local tourism employees through an emergency grant process for joint-venture lodges. A grant manual for the private sector was developed that guided the submission of requests for support. It was agreed that the funding would provide initial support for 50% of the salaries, with half of that being repayable in the event of survival and return to agreed operational capacity. The repayments would be targeted for future re-investment into the CBNRM programme.
Thirty-five joint venture partnerships signed up to the CRRRF, with the initial period for six months running from July to December 2020. This has now been extended for another six months to June 2021. Currently, this provides support to over 899 staff, although funding requests continue to grow.
“As a community, we should not solely rely on the government for development, we should use our natural resources to bring income and development in our community. We should join hands, work together and do our part, in that way we are all contributing to the future of our environment and people.” Allan Silubanga from the Sobbe Conservancy.
COVID-19 continues to test governments, institutions and individuals in unprecedented ways. The Namibian CBNRM programme has been severely challenged. The pandemic underscored the need to diversify Namibia’s green economy, however, the coordinated support for the programme during this crisis was a silver lining to the pandemic.
The CRRRF has received support from:
- Community Conservation of Fund Namibia (CCFN)
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
- Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF)
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- Nedbank Namibia
- Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF)
- Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC)
- Namibian Chamber of Environment (NCE)
- The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
- KfW Development Bank (KfW)
- Tourism Supporting Conservation Trust (TOSCO)