By WWF Travel
Namibia’s conservation programs are proving to be so successful that the unlikeliest of admirers - nations and conservation groups thousands of miles away - are taking notice. Mongolia is the latest nation to study how thriving community conservancies are transforming Namibia’s wildlife landscape. WWF is adapting the Namibian model for use in the Congo Basin. And the approach and lessons learned are being shared with colleagues throughout southern and eastern Africa and with WWF's Northern Great Plains field office in Montana.
Before Namibia gained independence from South Africa in March 1990, wildlife populations were plummeting in the country’s communal areas due to military occupation, organized poaching and severe drought. In the mid-1990s, national legislation gave people living in communal areas the opportunity to manage their natural resources. Communal conservancies were established to allow members to receive benefits from wildlife management and tourism development. In 2008, program benefits generated $5.6 million for community participants - earnings that were immediately reinvested in the community’s resource management efforts.
Today, Namibia has 74 communal conservancies, and nearly 33 million acres of land are now managed for wildlife in Namibia’s communal areas. Poaching is strongly discouraged by social pressures which place great value on the income, employment and other benefits that recovering wildlife are generating. Some animal populations have been restored, while others are still in the infancy of their recovery stage. And living conditions for the Namibian people are improving.
The success also shows how focused collaboration by a variety of stakeholders, including the conservancies, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, NGOs, the private sector, and the international donor community, strengthen such a program.
“What the Namibia program demonstrates,” says Chris Weaver, managing director for WWF’s Namibia program, “is that if people can benefit from the presence of wildlife - even if they are by nature ‘conflictual’ species like elephant, lion or cheetah - strong incentives can be created for people to participate in the responsible management and conservation of these animals.”
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