By: Eba Kandovazu
The environment, forestry and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta says that although communal conservancies and community forests rely on hunting, tourism and other natural resources for their income, which is severely affected by Covid-19, members should still receive benefits.
He said this at the opening of the conservancy and community chairpersons forum, which saw representations from registered communal conservancies, community forests and community associations in the north-central regions.
Namibia has 86 registered communal conservancies, 43 community forests and two community associations.
“It is the desire of the ministry to see all communal conservancies and community forests being financially sustainable. Ensuring good governance in all communal conservancies and community forests is very important. For this reason, the ministry issued the guidelines for the management of communal conservancies, which must be used to assist the management of these entities.”
He called on all chairpersons, partners, and ministry staff to collaborate to implement five key intervention measures. The measures are to hold annual general meetings per their constitutions and ensure that conservancy and community forests committees are elected according to the term of office. They are also to manage finances prudently, produce satisfactory annual financial reports, distribute benefits to the members as per the benefit distribution plan and procedures, and manage wildlife according to the conservancy game management and utilisation plan.
“Human-wildlife conflict management interventions remain high on the agenda and program of the ministry of environment, forestry and tourism. We will continue to put mitigation and preventative measures for human and wildlife conflict in place in all affected areas of our country.
“We will continue to manage human-wildlife conflict in a way that recognises the rights and development needs of local communities, recognises the need to promote biodiversity conservation, promote self-reliance and ensures that decision-making is quick, efficient and based on the best available information,” Shifeta added.
According to the environment minister, empowering communities, especially rural communities, cannot be achieved by government alone.
He said that field-based support organisations, development partners, and the private sector have supported communal conservancies and community forests in many parts of the country.
“We should do more to improve the livelihoods of our rural communities. Our emphasis should be to continue enhancing good governance, distribute benefits, fight poaching and reduce human-wildlife conflict,” he added.
Martha Nghidengwa, from Onehanga village, who is the chairperson of the Okongo conservancy, told The Villager that the meeting is also aimed at conservancies talking about their challenges, achievements and the challenges they face while managing conservancies.
“Our conservancy was gazette in 2009, but until now, we do not benefit anything from the conservancy because of the lack of money we face. The biggest issue is that we do not have resources. We do not have a lodge like other conservancies. They get money from lodges. We also do not have trophy hunters, who are essentially the biggest money makers for conservancies.”
She said they need assistance in getting a trophy hunter to generate money to assist community members while conserving nature.
“We have wild animals like buffaloes, kudus, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, springboks and cheetahs. Elephants only come and go. We do not have them in our conservancy. I am thankful that the government decided to host this meeting in the north this time around because we can freely air our concerns. Usually, when the meetings happen in the southern part of the country, we are not really free to express ourselves. It is also good because we are not a lot this time around, so we have ample time to speak and ask questions,” Nghidengwa said.
Oshana Governor reiterated that the meeting seeks to provide a dialogue for conservancies to expand and build their communities.
“Conservancies allow for the construction of roads, electricity and other developments in these communities. Today, they are here to see what good the laws governing conservancies have done since its inception in 1998. We are getting reports that conservancies make millions annually,” he told The Villager.