On 17-18 July 2019, conservancies' chairpersons, managers and CBNRM officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and conservancy support organisations gathered in Otjiwarongo, for the the Chairpersons’ Forum, which reviewed the successes, opportunities and challenges faced by communal conservancies.
The event was officially opened by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Honourable Pohamba Shifeta, who urged all key stakeholders, including communities, government agencies, private sector and civil society organisations that were present to approach the issues faced by conservancies from all angles and perspectives.
The presence of the Minister, Deputy Minister, Executive Director and other several top officials from the Ministry indicated the importance of the meeting and a clear commitment to wildlife protection, conservancies and the Community Based Natural Resources Management programme.
The Minister emphasised that “in the twenty years of implementing the CBNRM Programme, we have learned many lessons and challenges that come with managing and directing a growing and multi-stakeholder programme. The conservancy programme is based on the understanding that, if natural resources have sufficient value to rural communities…. then appropriate incentives for the people to use natural resources in a sustainable way will be created.”
He pointed out four main issues that he said he would like to see driving the strategic direction of the CBNRM programme: Firstly, the issue of benefit distribution. “This must be at the heart of the programme and we need to do everything in our collective powers to ensure that benefits to our communities are generated and directed to interventions that make a positive impact on the livelihoods of communities,” he stressed.
Second was the issue of financial and institutional sustainability. Conservancies need to adopt a more business oriented approach in order to diversify their income streams. Third, conservation hunting needs to be done diligently in a way that protects wildlife populations and maintains the health and functioning of ecosystems. Fourth is the issue of Human Widlife Conflict. Conservancies were urged to use policies and mechanisms currently in place and ensure that benefits of conservation management outweigh the costs of the problem.
However, the issue of financial mismanagement by individuals and conservancy committee members misusing and misappropriating conservancy property and finances was at the forefront of the discussion.
The conservancy representatives pointed out that some of the problems related to financial management stem from a lack of capacity and skills to manage funds, lack of implementation of acquired skills from training, loss of institutional capacity, and lack of accountability by those who mismanage funds.
The Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Honourable Bernadette Jagger cautioned that this is a wake up call to partners, including local and international NGOs. “Colleagues, let us join hands and come up with ideas and solutions to the problems in our conservancies. If it is due to a lack of financial management skills, then the people responsible to give support to conservancies should make sure that the people get proper training and understand how to manage finances,” she said.
Conservancy chairpersons and managers also deliberated on the issue and came up with some solutions on how to improve on conservancy financial management. They asked the Ministry and support conservation NGOs to give them more support, in the form of training, and to come up with a monitoring and evaluation system to review conservancy performance, at least on a quarterly basis.
Training may help, but conservancies were also given new financial management directives by the Ministry which allow conservancies to operate a maximum of three bank accounts: an income account, an operational account, and a Human Wildlife Conflict Self-Reliance Scheme account. A fourth bank account is possible, based on need, but for transparency purposes this should be communicated to the MET in writing for agreement.
Conservancies were given just one week to add further recommendations for the directives and were advised to implement them immediately. Once finalised, they will be transformed into regulations to be enforced with immediate effect.
“The Meeting of the conservancy chairpersons’ forum will continue to be held on a regular basis so that successes and challenges in the management of conservancies can be reviewed and help to inform decision making and update of policies,” said Bernadette Jagger.
This week the IUCN has its annual meeting. A major topic is, or should be the increasing number of extinctions and the loss of biodiversity. A third of all species assessed by the IUCN are in danger of extinction.
In August CITES meets. In Sepember the UN Climate Summit takes place. That's a great deal of flying. A recent carbon calculation reports emissions could triple by 2050. A person flying to Australia from Europe uses as much carbon in one flight as the average Namibian in one year.
Airline officials talk about lowering emissions and there are plans for electric powered planes on short haul trips, but it comes down to the number of flights that business people, government and NGO staff and holidaymakers take.
There is a saying: "Think before you buy." How about "Think before you fly"?