An article by Bennett Kahuure – Deputy Director (Parks and Wildlife), Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism
During the 2019 Conservancy Chairperson Forum, Hon. Minister Pohamba Shifeta emphasised his 2018 directive that 50% or more of the total income received by conservancies must be allocated towards community development projects. As a Ministry, we are working closely with the conservancies and their supporting organisations to help them reach this target.
Notwithstanding the many intangible and tangible benefits created through the conservancy system, there is scope for increasing the positive impact of the CBNRM programme specifically through community development projects. These projects have a lasting impact on the broader community by improving lives and creating opportunities for rural development.
Conservancies that generate substantial income from photographic tourism and conservation hunting are in a position to deliver these projects, provided that they manage their funds correctly and keep running costs low. Some running costs are critical to the functioning of the conservancy (e.g. salaries for key staff members) and must therefore be covered within each conservancy’s annual budget. Our main concern lies with unnecessary and wasteful expenditure, especially when it is not approved by the broader conservancy membership. The minimum 50% target is achievable for many conservancies, provided they cut down on these excesses.
To this end, we are working with conservancies to establish better systems of financial management that ensure greater accountability and engagement with their membership. Conservancies are expected to comply with the Standard Operating Procedures and Financial Management Directives to ensure that they run their affairs in a transparent and accountable manner.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is a critical platform for achieving this purpose. At the AGM, conservancy committees must forecast their income for the coming year and propose a budget that clearly presents what proportions of that income will be spent on running costs, savings/investments, and benefit distribution. Ideally, this last segment will comprise 50% or more of the proposed budget (see Figure 5 for the current status of benefits and conservancy incomes). Further, a clear benefit distribution plan must be developed with extensive community input and endorsed by members at an AGM.
The Namibian CBNRM programme exists by the will of the people, so it is only right that their needs should be a central concern for the Ministry and their elected conservancy committees. While the income growth witnessed over the last two decades of the programme is important, how that money is being spent is even more important.
CBNRM is about more than just numbers. It is about the people on the ground – the people who established conservancies in the first place and their children. The Ministry notes with pleasure the personal stories of beneficiaries from development projects undertaken by conservancies; we wish to see more of these in future. More than anything, the Minister’s directive is aimed at improving the lives of rural Namibians who are conserving our valuable natural resources. We are working together with conservancies and our partners in civil society to achieve this goal.