Once again, it is the beginning of the year and after the holiday we take it that everyone has rested enough and ready to start off with the new year. One of the top priority activities on the NACSO calendar is the conservancy annual integrated audits, which aim to assess the monitoring of natural resources, governance and financial status of conservancies.
Two of the NACSO interns, Victoria Amon and Milton Mushindi travelled from Windhoek to the far northeast of Namibia, to join the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) field coordinators who were busy preparing to conduct audits in the Zambezi conservancies. It is in this region, that 15 of 86 conservancies in Namibia are found, and Namibia’s Kyaramacan Association, located in the Bwabwata National Park, which operates the same way as a conservancy.
Bordering with Botswana and sandwiched between Mudumu and Nkasa Rupara National Park is Balyerwa conservancy, where game guards and resources monitors were proudly wearing their green uniforms to start their daily activities. This involves walking long transects to monitor wildlife and other natural resources. On that Tuesday morning, instead of their usual duties, they were up for a long day full of questions that would test their level of commitment towards their jobs.
And so it began “one, zero, zero, zero, two, zero…” said the game guards as they each read out loud the number of recorded incidences from their event books that they had come across during their patrols. The senior game guard confirms the collated information in the monthly event book, commonly known as the blue book. Information from the blue book and monthly fixed route patrol books are then entered into the natural resources management questionnaire, this then completes the NRM audit. Once the game guards are finished, the committee members then take the floor to present out the conservancy’s institutional and governance structure, which they are responsible for.
During this time, conservancy managers and staff are given a chance to reflect on their progress and how to improve on their activities, in order to manage their natural resources in a more sustainable way. After the audits, the natural resources management information for each conservancy is organised into a more structured format of posters, which are easy for game guards, committee, as well community members to interpret. The posters are also used for adaptive management feedback, a session done during the mid-year audits to inform and help conservancies reflect on their overall conservation performance.
As self-governing bodies, conservancies work independently, with assistance from support organisations such as the IRDNC in the Zambezi and Kavango east and Kunene north, Namibia Development Trust (NDT) in north central area, and the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) in Erongo and Kunene south regions. The audits serve as a comprehensive assessment of the overall performance of conservancies when it comes to natural resources management, governance and enterprise and financial management.
The data collected during the audits is crucial as it is used to update the annual State of Community Conservation report produced by NACSO in collaboration with the MET, which gives a detailed picture of conservancy performance to CBNRM organisations and, crucially, to conservancies themselves.