The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, says rural communities were able to generate about N$50 million and over 200 permanent jobs through the Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme (CBNRM).
She said this during the official launch of KAZA-TFCA in Katima Mulilo last week. Given the immense benefits already attained, she said KAZA conservation initiative would therefore succeed.
"This gives hope that the KAZA programme will be successful because it is led by the community who appreciate the resources that they have," said Nandi-Ndaitwah.
KAZA-TFCA is specifically targeted for the communities with partner governments' role reduced to ensuring that policies are in place for the country to sustainably benefit from natural resources.
"It is important to underline the fact that KAZA-TFCA programmes are for the communities who are represented here by traditional leaders from all five partner countries, while the five ministers who are here to ensure that community aspirations are met, represent government," stated the tourism minister.
Five SADC partner countries, namely Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola which were represented by ministers responsible for tourism, will harmonise conservation policies to promote cooperation and deal effectively with operational issues that will enhance conservation in the region.
Many rural communities in partner countries derive their livelihood from natural resources.
Nandi-Ndaitwah believes sustainable use of such resources is therefore vital to promote conservation.
"Natural resources form the basis of rural economies because people in rural areas depend on natural resource use for their survival, be it wildlife management and tourism, plant use, fisheries or a combination of these and other activities," said Nandi-Ndaitwah.
However, conservation offers its own set of problems and Ndaitwah would not shy away from revealing such impediments. "We recognise that living with wildlife often carries a cost. Increased wildlife populations into communal land areas result in more frequent conflicts between people and animals, particularly elephants and predators in many areas of the KAZA-TFCA," Nandi-Ndaitwah acknowledged.
Without elaborating further, she said "mechanisms were in place to reduce the level and impact of human wildlife conflict".
According to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, community based natural resource management gives exclusive rights of use and management of valuable natural resources to rural communities to benefit in a sustainable manner.
Under the same initiative, conservancies were created in 1996 with an objective of giving conditional use rights over wildlife and natural resources to communities in Namibia's communal areas.
Many communities today in KAZA-TFCA partner countries including Namibia have welcomed the initiative of managing their own natural resources. To date, there are about 59 registered conservancies in Namibia alone.
KAZA-TFCA, comprised of five SADC countries, with potential to contribute significantly to regional bio-diversity conservation and economic development, covers an area of about 287 000 square kilometres.
Over 36 proclaimed areas such as national parks, game reserves, forest reserves, community conservancies and wildlife management areas are found in the area. KAZA-TFCA secretariat offices opened in Kasane, Botswana in August last year.