On one early morning, in Namibia’s northwest, Kunene Region, all roads led to Torra conservancy, where the game guards and Conservancy Management Committees (CMCs) were getting their books ready to be audited, as part of the annual conservancy audits.
The audits which usually take place during the first quarter of the year, are a monitoring tool to assess conservancy governance, financial and natural resource management performance. They are carried out in all 86 communal conservancies by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, with assistance from Namibian Associations of CBNRM Support Organisations and regional staff from conservation support organisations.
Thomas Adams, chairperson of Torra conservancy, starts off the session by announcing that community members have decided to vote for three women to be part of the seven CMCs, A slight shift from the previous committee which only consisted of one woman out of 6 men. This is a step forward for the conservancy as it contributes overall to the community conservation and national development goals, to promote gender equality and women empowerment.
The role of the CMC is to oversee conservancy operations and make strategic decisions on behalf of the conservancy. Members should therefore hold CMCs accountable. The three women who are: Wilhelmina Mapanka-vice chairperson, Callista Hoes- treasurer and Bonafilia Tjivera- vice secretary, were elected in December 2019, during the conservancy annual general meeting. The conservancy constitution has a provision for electing new committee members every after five years, with a possibility of extension if re-elected again.
Wilhelmina is very happy to be elected and likewise for the other women who have taken up the same role. “I believe that the more women get into leadership positions, the better they can influence positive change,” she said.
Callista and Wilhelmina who both have a background in education shared the same sentiment that they would like the conservancy to be a good example to its members and most importantly to other conservancies. “I think the conservancy can do a much better job in terms of filling. With my skills, I would like to introduce a better filling system, so that the conservancy can be more efficient in organizing and retrieving information,” said Callista.
Torra is one of the first four communal conservancies gazetted in 1998. Since its establishment, it has been a role model to the other conservancies. It was the first conservancy to become financially sustainable, covering all its own management costs and making a profit.
“I would like to help the conservancy to manage its resources better and to start investing more in developmental projects, “said Wilhelmina. “I want to see the Torra that I knew back in the days when the CBNRM programme started in Namibia, a conservancy with good management, helping its people and uplifting its members’ lives,” she emphasised.