Significant differences exist between conservancies. There are vast differences in size (the biggest conservancies are more than 200 times as large as the smallest), as well as in the number of residents (ranging from several hundred to more than 30,000). Topography, rainfall and natural habitat, proximity to urban centres, land-use activities and other factors all influence the quantity and quality of natural resources available in a given area.

There are also large differences in the degrees of conservancy development, based on when a conservancy was registered, the level of commitment of the people involved, the availability of transport, electricity and water infrastructure, and the amount of technical support available.

As the number of conservancies has grown, their development potential has also been taken into consideration. The first four conservancies, and most that followed shortly afterwards, had considerable potential for conservation hunting, which yielded immediate income. In scenic areas with growing wildlife populations, tourism joint-ventures began to develop, bringing benefits to rival and even overtake hunting. However, many newer conservancies do not offer a strong wildlife base or scenic attractions, nor have they had time to develop strong management capacity.

Private sector involvement varies significantly from one area to the next, influenced by location, accessibility and tourism or conservation hunting potential. All of these factors result in great differences in the potential to generate cash income and in-kind benefits.

The graph shows the number of conservancies earning cash
The graph shows the number of conservancies earning cash, divided into incremental categories (including the Kyaramacan Association). There are great differences in the potential of conservancies to generate cash income
Palmwag
Despite its semi-desert location, Palmwag Lodge lies at the intersection of two main tourist routes and a tourism concession with free-ranging black rhino

Returns have been rising since 1998, when the first conservancies were formed. However, in the last few years, and particularly in 2016 and 2017, Namibia experienced a surge in tourism. While tourism has provided the greatest cash income to households, consumptive wildlife use, especially conservation hunting, has returned more cash directly to conservancies and provided more in-kind benefits, due to the increased value of game meat.

The table breaks down cash payments to conservancies, cash payments to their residents, and the monetised value of in-kind benefits. It also illustrates trends in benefits generation. More conservancies are generating no income because of reduced opportunities for conservation hunting. However, more conservancies have generated income and benefits over N$500,000 because of the growth in tourism.

The rise in returns generated through conservancies

Year Total cash income to conservancies (N$) Total cash income to conservancy residents (N$) Total in-kind benefits to conservancy residents (N$) Total returns (cash income and in-kind benefits) to conservancy residents (N$) Number of conservancies (includes Kyaramacan Association) Number of conservancies generating cash income or in-kind benefits Average total returns per conservancy generating cash income or in-kind benefits
1998 326,378 241,784 94,116 662,278 4 3 220,759
1999 662,119 302,073 607,408 1,571,600 9 5 314,320
2000 626,874 434,649 969,472 2,030,995 10 5 406,199
2001 1,439,342 1,267,361 746,364 3,453,067 15 10 345,307
2002 3,221,578 1,866,482 1,557,432 6,645,492 15 12 553,791
2003 4,252,319 3,009,586 1,095,060 8,356,965

29

16 522,310
2004 4,096,656 3,348,486 1,706,344 9,151,486 31 23 397,891
2005 5,177,658 5,038,348 3,627,797 13,843,803 44 28 494,422
2006 8,797,117 5,709,102 4,881,669 19,387,888 51 37 523,997
2007 11,770,975 8,822,708 6,893,694 27,487,377 51 41 670,424
2008 14,184,182 11,866,175 6,472,473 32,522,830 54 41 793,240
2009 12,937,296 13,096,682 9,022,128 35,056,106 60 44 796,730
2010 16,807,425 14,391,981 8,452,750 39,652,156 60 49 809,228
2011 21,535,608 14,885,926 10,056,965 46,478,499 67 53 876,953
2012 25,261,882 20,088,258 10,669,938 56,020,078 78 56 1,000,359
2013 31,564,931 24,896,342 11,701,790 68,163,063 80 65 1,048,663
2014 35,290,101 37,832,739 12,988,100 86,110,940 83 63 1,366,840
2015 46,724,190 37,802,020 17,656,835 102,183,045 83 70 1,459,758
2016 49,637,439 42,946,799 18,648,519 111,232,757 83 63 1,765,599
2017 55,903,138 55,684,615 21,236,480 132,824,233 84 69 1,924,989
2018 61,004,100 65,009,939 21,443,695 147,457,734 87 66 2,234,208
Cash income to conservancies includes fees paid to conservancies by tourism and hunting operators and others; cash income to conservancy residents is wages paid by those operators to residents and other cash payments to residents. Wages paid by conservancies to residents are not included under cash income to residents in order to avoid double-counting this income. Returns at a Glance shows a breakdown of wages earned by residents.

Financial viability

Not all conservancies generate cash income, either because they have not yet developed sufficient income generation capacity, or they have little potential to generate income from hunting or tourism. However, their conservation value to Namibia may be significant, providing protected wildlife habitat that very often is spatially linked to other conservancies or conservation landscapes. The provision of management and technical support to these conservancies is an important consideration for the future.

This page was last updated on: 9th December 2019