Imagine if the responsibility for protecting Yellowstone National Park was taken away from the government and put into the hands of the local residents – that’s what a communal conservancy is.
A communal conservancy requires a majority of people in an area to agree to its establishment, with agreed boundaries. A constitution must be drawn up; annual meetings must be held with a proper quorum; and the conservancy can then be gazetted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Conservancies exist in order to protect wildlife and habitats. Game guards from the community are employed by the conservancy to patrol the area, deter poachers and assist the MET to monitor wildlife numbers during annual game counts. The MET sets a quota for hunting so that wildlife populations are stable or can grow.
Conservancies have rights over tourism operations, so if an investor wants to open a lodge in a conservancy, he or she has to make a deal with the community. If it’s a good deal, both sides will benefit. For the conservancy, the benefits will include a share in the income from the lodge, as well as valuable job opportunities.
What does this all mean? It means that gone are the days when the tourist bus whipped past the farmer with a wave at best. Now the farmer is likely to have a stake in the lodge the bus is bound for. His kids may be working as tour guides, cooks or even lodge managers.
When you come to Namibia, be sure to visit a Communal Conservancy. Ask the members of the conservancy about what it means to them – it’s a great opportunity to learn about what makes Namibia’s conservation policies so unique.