Community Associations

Kyaramacan Association (KA)

Until 2021 there was only one community association, the Kyaramacan Association. All of its members live within Bwabwata National Park’s Multiple Use Area with the agreement of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT).

The KA works to maximise the livelihood options of the historically marginalised people who live in the area, 80% of which are Khwe San. Other occupants are !Xun San and Hambukushu.

Bwabwata National Park, previously known as the West Caprivi Game Reserve, was at the centre of the armed struggle for the liberation of Namibia. Its long northern border with Angola and its woodland cover made it an ideal area for insurgency. As a result, the area was heavily occupied by South African forces. Even today, munitions may be found within the park. Many San people were employed by the South African Army, and left destitute at independence when the occupying forces withdrew. Most relied upon government food aid to supplement small maize gardens that were regularly raided by elephants.

With assistance from NACSO member organisation IRDNC, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, the Kyaramacan Association was established in 2005. It represents over 5,000 people resident in the park, so that they may manage and benefit from their own natural resources. Training and the promotion of involvement in community meetings have empowered previously marginalised people, especially women.

The key difference between the KA and Namibia’s communal conservancies is that the Association is established within a national park and not on communal land. In other respects, the KA operates just like a conservancy, with members, a management committee and employees. It draws its revenue from a hunting concession, granted by the MET in one area of the park, and from tourism. At present, there is a campsite, and a lodge is under development in a joint venture with a private sector investor.

The relationship between the Kyaramacan Association and Bwabwata National Park is a unique experiment in park management. Rather than create a park without people, the inhabitants of the area have been incorporated into the park. Instead of hunting in the traditional way, San people earn revenue from managed trophy hunting. In return, many of them work as game guards, together with MEFT rangers, to counter the threat of poaching. The KA employs 63 staff, making it the largest employer in the park. A craft centre has been set up close to the eastern entrance to the multiple-use area of the park, to sell traditional Khwe baskets and other crafts.

Another important income stream for residents is the sustainable harvesting of Devil’s Claw, which is used by the pharmaceutical industry. Devil’s Claw, which is a tuber with a thorny outgrowth, is organically certified and much in demand. In 2013 income from harvesting was almost US$90,000, with profits going to 562 harvesters, 317 of whom were women.

With support from Finland through the IRDNC, the Kyaramacan Association has raised the living standards of one of the most marginalised groups in Namibia, through the sustainable utilisation of natural resources, resulting in improved conservation.

≠Aonin (Topnaar) Community Association

As per the National Policy on Protected Areas’ Neighbours and Resident Communities, the MEFT assisted the Topnaar community that resides in the Namib Naukluft Park and Dorob National Park to form an association, which led to the creation and launch of the ≠Aonin (Topnaar) Community Association in December 2021. The Association has a committee elected by the community, which is the representative body dealing with tourism and natural resources matters and ensuring equitable benefit distribution.