Communal and freehold conservancies, community forests, national parks and tourism concessions together create a vast conservation zone. At present, 46.8% of Namibia is under some form of conservation management.
Conservation on state and communal land in Namibia is the legal responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), and is carried out by the Ministry, by self-governing Communal Conservancies, and by Community Forests and Community Associations. Conservation on private land is coordinated by CANAM, the Conservancies Association of Namibia. Each of these can be found in the site tabs under Conservancies and Conservation.
Following Namibia’s independence in 1990, the then Ministry of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism, together with NGOs, conducted a socio-ecological survey in rural areas which found that many communities on communal land wanted the same rights over natural resources enjoyed by freehold farmers, who could hunt game and establish tourism enterprises on their land.
In 1996 an amendment was made to the Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975, which devolved rights to communities over natural resources, which includes wildlife, and established rights for communities to set up tourism enterprises. These rights were to be exercised through communal conservancies. The first four communal conservancies were formed in 1998. To date, there are 86, covering almost 20% of Namibia.
Community forests are similar to conservancies, and very often overlap them. They control grazing and natural resource extraction rights in forest areas.
National parks are on state land, and are run by the MEFT. In one park, Bwabwata, which runs from Kavango East to Zambezi Region, there is a Community Association, which is run on similar lines to a conservancy. Its members, who were living in the area when the park was declared, were allowed to remain in its multiple-use area.
Tourism concessions are areas of state land where concessions are granted by the MEFT to tourism enterprises or to conservancies, to run for the benefit of wildlife or conservation-based tourism.
Freehold conservancies are aggregations of private farms where land owners have come together to include conservation management in their land-use planning. Many of these farms concentrate on wildlife, with trophy hunting and tourism being important income streams.
Large landscape planning: the linking of conservation areas and the alignment of their objectives, is crucial to restoration and maintenance of habitat, and also to the increase and sustainability of wildlife populations. As a result of conservation policy and management in Namibia, wildlife is able to move more freely between national parks, tourism concessions and conservancies.
From 2011–2016 the MEFT, with funding from the Global Environment Facility through the UNDP, set up the Nam-Place Project, which has created large landscape conservation areas designed to lift conservation barriers and advocate for the establishment of a large-scale network of protected landscapes, in order to address imminent threats to habitat and species loss at a landscape level.
The Namibian example of large landscape planning has been adopted by KAZA, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, comprising land in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and centred around the Zambezi Region of Namibia, enabling wildlife to move more freely across national borders.