Learning in Namibia

WWF’s Chris Weaver on Namibian CBNRM
WWF’s Chris Weaver on Namibian CBNRM

Today we launch a new page on the NACSO site: Visits and Learning. It is a fundamental principle of CBNRM that we learn from each other, locally, nationally and globally. Conservation is the small patch of land that we love and protect – and it is the entire planet. Today, everything is linked. NACSO and its associate member WWF in Namibia have pioneered the approach of international learning, and today’s article shows how far we have come. You will find Visits and Learning under News & Media.

Conservation at scale

Conservation at scale is the new guiding principle in Namibia, where almost half of the country is under conservation management, and where the north-eastern regions are bound together in a five-country conservation initiative as large as France, known as KAZA.

So it was appropriate for WWF representatives from 31 countries to meet in Namibia's capital, Windhoek in late May, 2018, to thrash out ideas on how to take conservation to scale worldwide.

WWF has moved away from the traditional species conservation approach, to embrace a world-wide strategy based on 'Practices' with three cross-cutting themes: Finance, Governance and Markets, and is launching High Impact Initiatives, such as taking community-based conservation to scale.

The concept of a HII – High Impact Initiative, was outlined by Delfin Jr Ganapin, the WWF Governance Practice leader, who spent many years working on local level conservation projects in Indonesia.

A HII must be urgent and ambitious, said Ganapin in a fast-paced presentation that seemed to race against time – perhaps reflecting the time left for mankind to effect change. “We have to think about what the world needs, not just what WWF believes,” he stated. "We have to do the thing that makes the difference."

Although the workshop was organized by the Governance Practice, it cut across all three Practices to discuss how to make a difference at a global scale. Conservation can no longer be confined to national parks, said Ganapin, because there is virtually no space left for parks to expand into. Infrastructure: new roads, cities and agri-business make new park landscapes almost impossible.

"The solution is people," stated the practice leader. "People protecting landscapes."

Which was why Namibia hosted the workshop and subsequent field visit to communal conservancies, to meet with people empowered to utilize their natural resources and to protect their environment.

The Namibian WWF team included specialists on conservancy governance, natural resource management and finance, and was led by its Director, Chris Weaver, who emphasized the importance of smart partnerships, citing WWF's engagement with the Namibian government, and with local-level conservation NGOs.

Namibia's experience included partnerships with the private sector in community based tourism and sustainable hunting, which brought tangible benefits to local communities though conservancies.

As Ganapin had stated, people can protect landscapes through ICCAs – Indigenous Community Conservation Areas. "That is what a conservancy in Namibia actually is"” he said.

A long term approach is essential, according to the Namibian team, which began natural resource management in small areas twenty years ago, and has now scaled up to manage almost 20% of the country through communal conservancies, linked in large landscapes to near 20% of the country managed as national parks – and now linked to KAZA, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.

The workshop broke into groups to discuss ideas in detail: how to unlock natural resource wealth sustainably, using the private sector, how to monitor natural resource use so that it is sustainable, and how to build partnerships. An international survey on scaling up had been conducted by Anil Mandahar, from WWF Nepal, and Matt Erke from the CBC Initiative, which is performing a comprehensive assessment of WWF’s engagement with community-based conservation.

Working at scale means monitoring at scale, stated Ganapin, who talked about the worldwide mapping of land rights, similar to the rights enjoyed by Namibian communal conservancies. A checklist on progress must be maintained, he stressed, and he made a point about the Panda: according to WWF Director Marco Lambertini, the Panda logo can sometimes get in the way. We need, he stressed, to give equal weight to local partners. Without them, WWF will not be able to scale conservation up to the global scale required.

Practice makes perfect, and the cross-cutting approach suggested and explored by the Governance Practice at the workshop in Namibia, will help to create the right approach worldwide. The object was to share new ideas with country offices – to make them aware of the new possibilities created by the WWF Practices, and to get them ready to scale up.

Steve Felton
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