Returns are the total of income and benefits accruing to communities and conservancies as a result of community conservation.

Total returns to conservancies and members

Total returns

The total cash income and in-kind benefits generated in conservancies (including the Kyaramacan Association) grew from less than N$ 1 million in 1998 to more than N$ 147 million in 2018. This includes all directly measurable income and in-kind benefits being generated, and can be divided into conservancy income in cash (mostly through partnerships with private sector operators), household cash income to residents from enterprises (mostly through employment and the sale of products), non-cash benefits to residents such as contributions to community infrastructure, and the distribution of harvested game meat.

The terminology of income, benefits and returns

For clarity, the following terms are consistently used in this report:

Income – indicates cash income received as payment for goods or services, either by organisations or individuals

Benefits – indicates benefits distributed by a conservancy as dividends or social benefits, or by the private sector as fringe benefits and donations; these go to communities or individual households and can be divided into three types:

  1. cash benefits are dividends paid to conservancy members from conservancy income
  2. in-kind benefits include meat distribution and fringe benefits from tourism employment such as staff housing, etc.
  3. social benefits are investments in community initiatives including education facilities, health services, etc.

Returns – combine income and benefits and indicate overall returns, either to individuals, communities or conservancies.

Sources of returns to conservancies and their members in 2018

Source of cash income and in-kind benefits Value in N$ Percentage
Joint-venture tourism (includes all cash income and in-kind benefits to conservancies and members) 93,771,228 63.6
Conservation hunting (includes all cash income and meat to conservancies and members) 34,463,053 23.4
Game harvesting and problem animal control (includes all cash income and meat to conservancies and members) 5,173,242 3.5
Indigenous plant products 4,855,440 3.3
Community-based tourism 4,625,799 3.1
Miscellaneous (e.g. interest) 2,820,567 1.9
Crafts 1,748,405 1.2
  147,457,734 100
Joint-venture tourism and conservation hunting make the greatest financial contributions to conservation, e.g. game guard salaries, and to livelihoods, (figures include Kyaramacan Association returns).

Varied sources of natural resource returns

Four sample conservancies illustrate the large variation between conservancies in sources of natural resource returns.

The "Cash income and in-kind benefits" bar charts show total cash income and in-kind benefits over time, and the "Sources of returns" pie charts illustrate the ratios between sources of returns. The "Disbursements" bar charts show disbursements within conservancies, which also vary considerably. While some conservancies pay out substantial cash benefits to households, others provide broader social benefits to resident communities.

For consistency, the same four conservancies are shown annually.

Cash income and in-kind benefits

Note that the y-axis scale differs between the charts.

Returns Kasika
Returns Muduva Nyangana
Returns Torra
Returns Nyae Nyae

Sources of returns

Income breakdown Kasika


Income breakdown Muduva Nyangana

Muduva Nyangana

Income breakdown Torra


Income breakdown Nyae Nyae

Nyae Nyae

Returns legend


Disbursement Kasika
Disbursement Muduva Nyangana
Disbursement Torra
Disbursement Nyae Nyae
Disbursements legend

Returns from tourism and consumptive wildlife use

Tourism and consumptive wildlife use generate the largest portions of conservancy returns. The merits of hunting as a conservation tool compared to photographic tourism are often debated intensely. CBNRM emphasises the importance of using the broadest range of indigenous resources possible, in order to enhance their value and ensure their protection, as well as the protection of large areas of natural habitat.

The Namibian model illustrates the value of generating returns from both tourism and the consumptive use of wildlife. Rising returns are facilitated through strategic partnerships with the private sector, which offers specialised skills and market linkages. Capacity building and skills transfer create further benefits. The figures compare the benefits generated by these two important sectors since the commencement of conservancy creation in 1998.

The complementary roles of sustainable consumptive wildlife use and joint-venture tourism operations


Returns from tourism and sustainable wildlife use
Overall returns from the two sectors are similar, with annual fluctuations reflecting the international tourism market and offtakes of game dependent upon climatic conditions
Cash income to conservancies
Consumptive wildlife enterprises (specifically conservation hunting) generate much higher fees to conservancies than tourism, which can be used to cover operational costs and development projects
Cash income to households
Tourism provides significantly higher cash income to households than conservation hunting, in the form of wages
In-kind benefits to households
In respect to in-kind benefits to households, conservation hunting remains the main contributor in the form of game meat

Reliance on conservation hunting and photographic tourism

Map of reliance on conservation hunting and photographic tourism

The map portrays which conservancies depend mostly on tourism income to cover their running costs, and which rely mostly on conservation hunting and game harvesting.

Hunting is clearly a vital source of cash income in a high proportion of conservancies, without which many conservancies would not have been able to form, or to attain financial viability. However, tourism is an increasingly important source of income. Although the map shows the main source of income, it is important to note that some conservancies have a mix of income from tourism and hunting, whereas some rely almost exclusively on hunting. The loss of this income would pose a considerable problem for conservation (see maps below).

The importance of consumptive wildlife use income

The maps below illustrate the importance of income generated through sustainable consumptive wildlife use for selected conservancies* (first map). The loss of this income would result in a negative cash flow for most of these conservancies, which would no longer be able to cover their running costs (second map). These costs include game guards, who are vital in the prevention of poaching and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict.

Income generated through sustainable consumptive wildlife use for selected conservancies
Income generated through sustainable consumptive wildlife use for selected conservancies
Effect on cash flow of losing income from sustainable consumptive wildlife use
Effect on cash flow of losing income from sustainable consumptive wildlife use

Those conservancies relying mostly on tourism, would be able to adjust their activities to fit a reduced income, but would become less effective in managing their resources. Those conservancies relying mostly on hunting would become unsustainable.

* Figures include the Kyaramacan Association in Bwabwata National Park

This page was last updated on: 9th December 2019