The first freehold conservancy on commercial farmland in Namibia was established in 1991, just a year after independence. Currently there are 21, covering just over 6% of Namibia’s land area. These are all voluntary associations, brought about by concern for the environment and the dedication of commercial farmers. They are organised by the Conservancy Association of Namibia: CANAM.
A conservancy is defined by CANAM as a legally protected area of a group of bona fide land-occupiers practicing co-operative management based upon a sustainable utilisation strategy and the promotion of conservation of natural resources and wildlife. Conservancies should strive to reinstate original biodiversity.
CANAM was established in 1996. It states that, from the outset, member conservancies enjoyed the support and co-operation of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. It adds that the Association acts as a representative body for all conservancies and its objectives are, inter alia, the following:
- To represent as many properly established conservancies as possible in Namibia and to act as the coordinating body of these conservancies.
- To liaise and endeavour to cooperate with the relevant authorities for the establishment, recognition and enforcement of legal implications in respect of conservancies and conservation in general in Namibia.
- To actively encourage members to generate the interest and active participation of landowners, bona fide land occupiers and their employees in the conservation of fauna and the environment in general.
- To encourage and coordinate research and projects in respect of natural resource management.
- To protect, regulate and improve the quality of the total environment.
- To facilitate and coordinate development of a marketing strategy and conservancies.
- To create awareness, both locally and internationally of the objectives and activities of CANAM.
- To raise funds for the promotion and implementation of the objectives of CANAM.
CANAM notes that there is a lack of awareness amongst the Namibian population concerning conservancies and conservation in general, and there exists a need to inform the public at large about conservancies and the important role they must play in the future of Namibia.