The Namibian Sun

Ellanie Smit,
October 16, 2019

The environment ministry has received complaints from some conservancies about individuals misusing and misappropriating conservancy property and finances.

The new Wildlife and Protected Areas Management Bill, once enacted, will help the environment ministry to correct and enforce good governance and accountability in conservancies.

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta, who was speaking at the launch of the Otjindjerese, Otjikongo and Ombombo Masitu conservancies in the Opuwo Urban constituency, Kunene Region, said misuse of community funds would not be tolerated. He said the ministry had received complaints from some conservancies about individuals and even conservancy committee members misusing and misappropriating conservancy property and finances at the expense of the conservancy members.

“Let me remind you of my earlier directive to all conservancies in the country, that at least 50% of income generated by a conservancy should be reinvested into community development projects.

“We want to see money generated through hunting of wild animals and from community lodges going to building of classrooms, rural electrification of our villages, support to school leaners and university students, provision of water to communities, human wildlife conflict mitigation.”

Shifeta said until the bill was enacted strict financial management directives would be put in place and should be adhered to by all conservancies. He said a conservancy was not a tool to divide community members along political, racial or ethnic lines, but a vehicle towards rural economic emancipation. This should be very clear to everyone concerned.

“I urge you all to commit yourselves to nation-building and not indulge yourselves in creating conflict among community members and yourselves as conservancy members. We need to work together with vigour and determination to achieve our developmental goals.”

He further said that a response plan was needed to address human-wildlife conflict caused by the disastrous drought in the country. He explained that the widespread drought was also affecting national parks and conservancies and therefore animals were leaving these areas, leading to more conflict with neighbouring communities and farmers.

“A response plan is therefore needed on how to address the current drought situation in some of the parks, conservancies and surrounding areas,” said Shifeta. He said innovative mechanisms were being created to reduce the level of human-wildlife conflict, to ensure that the benefits of conservation management far outweigh the costs, and to build on the significant successes in managing human-wildlife conflict.

Otjindjerese and Otjikongo were declared as a conservancy in the Government Gazette of 3 August 2018 while Ombombo Masitu was declared and gazetted in 2014.

These conservancies have diverse wildlife resources, particularly elephant and kudus. Creation of tourism facilities will offer great opportunities to these communities as the areas offer beautiful scenery.

These resources can be sustainably utilised to enhance rural development and eradicate poverty through the conservancy programme.

Shifeta said despite all the successes and benefits of the conservancy programme, the ministry recognised that living with wildlife often carries a cost.

“Most Namibians depend on the land for their subsistence, but the presence of many species of large mammals such as elephants, crocodiles and predators, combined with settlement patterns of people, leads to conflicts between people and wildlife.”

The Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme allows the formation of communal conservancies through which rural communities have gained rights over management of wildlife and tourism.

The programme provides a number of incentives to rural communities who are managing these natural resources and generate income from the sustainable utilisation of wildlife and tourism management.