Cablegate: Usaid Closes Out Cbnrm Program in Namibia

Published: Wed 20 Aug 2008 10:04 AM
R 201004Z AUG 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: On June 12 in Windhoek, Regional Environment and Health
Officer for Southern Africa (REHO) attended USAID's close-out
ceremony of its 15-year support of Community-Based Natural Resources
Management (CBNRM) in Namibia. Among the attendees were Ambassador
Mathieu, USAID Director Gary Newton, senior government officials,
NGOs and the private sector. All the speakers lauded the success of
the CBNRM program in Namibia, ascribing it to the sustained support
of USAID, the support of the Namibian government, and the dedication
and hard work of NGOs and conservancies. The Namibian CBNRM policy
went further than any other Southern Africa country in giving rights
over wildlife and tourism directly to communities. That played a
significant part in the popularity and success of the program. End
2. The Conservancy movement in Namibia has its origins in the CBNRM
programs of the 1980's, when local communities saw the need to
preserve and sustainably manage the fast dwindling wildlife in
Northwest Namibia. From the humble beginnings of the Community Game
Guard system led by local chiefs and NGO's, it blossomed into the
mass communal conservancy wave of today, spurred on by international
assistance and the growth of tourism. Critically, the government of
Namibia (GON) created the enabling environment for this movement to
flourish into a national rural development program by approving in
1996 the Nature Conservation Amendment Act. The amendment of the
1975 Act meant that communal villagers now had the same rights as
freehold farmers to use, manage and benefit from wildlife and
tourism. This encouraged the creation of partnerships between rural
communities, NGOs, the private sector and the Government. Thus from
the initial 4 communal conservancies gazetted in 1998, there were 29
by 2003 (23 percent of communal land), and 50 as of September 2007.
In addition, the notable increase in areas under conservation and
natural resource management, as well wildlife resouces, reflects an
important success of the conserancy movement. However, as the
conservancies' welt has increased, so have the challenges to
mange it. Some are already self-sustaining, but othes still
require technical and finncial support before they can become
sustainably independent. USAID invested in Namibia' CBNRM program
through the Living in a Finite Environment (LIFE) Project. In 1993,
USAID awarded the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) a 5-year cooperative
agreement worth USD 13.7 million to implement LIFE in collaboration
with the MET. The latter two added about USD 3 million of matching
funds, for a project total of USD 16.8 million. Due to LIFE's
success, it was extended to LIFE 2 (USD 15 million) and finally LIFE
Plus (USD 11 million) through June 2008, for a total of 15 years and
roughly USD 40 million. The Government of Namibia (GON) and donor
partners matched this amount for the duration of the project.
A Farewell to AID But not Aid
3. On June 12, USAID held a close-out ceremony of its 15-year LIFE
program in support Community-Based Natural Resources Management
(CBNRM) in Namibia at the Polytechnic Hotel and Tourism School in
Windhoek. The well-attended event included the presence of US
Ambassador Mathieu; USAID Director Gary Newton; Deputy Minister of
MET Leon Jooste; Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee
on Natural Resources, Economics and Public Accounts Peya Mushelenga;
NGOs, including the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), World Wildlife
Fund (WWF), Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation
(IRDNC) and the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations
(NACSO); Conservancy members; and business, particularly tour and
joint operators. Master of Ceremony NNF's Executive Director, Dr.
Chris Brown praised the decisive role of partnership in the success
of the 15-year program. He called for celebration of achievements
and the establishment of a new model of sustainable development,
rather than grief over loss of funding.
MET's Commitment
4. In his brief remarks, Deputy Minister of MET Leon Jooste noted
the remarkable success of the three LIFE programs in the past decade
and a half, building capacity for NGOs, including the umbrella
organization NACSO, conservancies and the MET itself. He said LIFE
Plus developed a wildlife monitoring system which the MET adopted
for its national parks and other countries embraced as a useful
model. Indeed, the most impressive feature of Namibia CBNRM program
lies in its warm embrace by the global community. However, even as
he marveled at the program's success since the seminal 1996 CBNRM
Law, Jooste acknowledged the remaining challenges ahead. He
affirmed the MET's commitment to CBNRM, which revealed the
importance of partnerships, and its determination to do its utmost
to maintain its existence since it dovetails with the GON's National
Development Plans such as Vision 2030 and Poverty Reduction
Strategy. Jooste also mentioned the ongoing negotiations with the
USG on a Millennium Challenge Compact agreement, including
approximately USD 18.2 million to support CBNRM and the funding of
31 of the 50 conservancies. They would receive technical aid for
capacity building such as marketing skills, governance and financial
management. He closed by thanking USAID for its amazing efforts and
its pivotal role in launching the stellar CBNRM movement, and
promised to maintain investment in the program.
A Brief Time in History
5. In introducing the video presentation on the achievements and
challenges of Namibia's conservancies, WWF's Chris Weaver presented
a comparative history of the movement from its inception in 1993 to
now. He noted the absence of a legal basis in 1993 for communities
to benefit from natural resources; now, the 1996 Conservancy Act
enshrines their rights to such benefits. In 1993, wildlife was
viewed as mere meat and a curse; now, it is viewed as an integral
part of rural livelihoods, a posture that has led to an amazing
rebound in wildlife stocks. In 1993, there were only 2-field based
NGOs dealing with CBNRM issues; now, there are eleven NGOs that
support conservancies. In 1993, tourism and conservation did not
constitute a development priority for Namibia; today, they are both
integrated into Vision 2030 (it is Namibia's primary development
roadmap) and figure prominently in the proposed MCC program. In
1993, communities lacked access to a steady supply of revenues; now,
those revenues are a reality for rural people. In 1993, the
conservancy concept was just that: an idea; today, it is recognized
as the foremost community development program in Namibia, earning
many international plaudits. In conclusion, Weaver acknowledged
USAID's critical contribution of USD 40 million in the past 15 years
to this successful program.
6. The 26-minute Video presentation, entitled "By the People, For
the People," recapped the history of CBNRM and conservancies in
Namibia. The program now encompasses 200,000 people of all 12
historically disadvantaged ethnic groups in 50 conservancies (and 30
pending). The affected areas witnessed a dramatic rise in wildlife,
particularly elephants and antelope. USAID funding leveraged monies
from the GON, WWF, and other donors such as the British (DFID) and
the Swedes (SIDA). Finally, the video noted that conservancies
represent an ideal framework for the implementation of proposed
5-nation Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation (KAZA TFCA) in
The State of Conservancies
7. Anna Davis, who prepared the fifth edition of the State of
Conservancies Report, presented a concise summary of its contents.
The document echoed many of the crucial facts noted in the summary
and the speeches noted above, but also highlighted the increasing
prominence of the Northeast region in the program. In addition,
Davis revealed that the CBNRM program, which covered an area of 45,
832 square miles, brought in over N$39 million (USD 5.5 million at a
pro-rated exchange rate of N$6.90 to USD 1) in revenues in 2007.
Davis said conservancies now make up 14.4 percent of Namibia's
landmass, protected areas 16.5 percent, commercial conservancies 6.1
percent, and community forests and concessions 1.3 percent.
Conservation management thus accounts for about 38 percent of
Namibia's land area. Currently, 42 conservancies either have or are
developing management plans; 39 manage cash income; 26 have business
and sustainability plans; 18 have HIV/AIDS policies; 42 hold Annual
General Meetings (AGMs); 31 employ finance managers; and 23 hold
elections. Additionally, committees consist of 37 percent women.
8. Turning to other achievements, Davis said that in 2007, CBNRM
benefits amounted to N$39.1 million, of which N$20.5 million (USD
2.9 million) was in cash to conservancies and N$7 million (USD 1
Million) in non cash to conservancies. Other CBNRM income outside
of conservancies (from enterprises not managed by, or directly
contributing to conservancies, but still supported through the
program) came to N$11.5 million (USD 1.6 Million), with over 6000
part-time and over 800 full-time jobs. The main sources of income
were joint-venture tourism totaling NS$ 14.5 million (USD 2 million)
and other activities, such as game viewing, veldt products and
crafts, amounting to N$11.5 million (USD 1.6 million). Moreover,
conservancies disbursed N$22.5 million (USD 3.2 million) to their
members in the form of social benefits, cash payments, jobs, capital
development, and operational costs. Davis also noted that CBNRM
contributed N$233 million (USD 33.7 Million) to Net National Income.
Regarding challenges, she noted that communities track human-animal
conflicts through "events books." While animal stock damage
predominates in the Northwest, the Northeast suffers from crop loss.
Moving on to notable features, Davis reported that between 1999 and
2007, conservancies introduced 15 different species at a value of
over N$10 million (USD 1.5 million). The growth of conservancies
and activities also means the rise in demand for support services,
improved management, increasing human-animal and land conflicts, and
an urgent need for equitable benefit sharing.
Ambassador's Speech
9. Ambassador Mathieu began her remarks by reiterating the notable
accomplishment of 15 years of USAID CBNRM support that led to a
success story shortly after Namibia's independence. She echoed
other speakers' view that collaboration among government, NGOs,
civic-based organizations (CBOs) and donors explained the program's
achievements. For instance, good wildlife management led to the
noteworthy increase in game. Moreover, the program has supported
many activities, including HIV/AIDS, water supply and income
generation. She said key reasons for the success of the CBNRM
program were: a) the longevity of USG support; b) a supportive
legislative and institutional framework; and c) partnerships. The
Ambassador noted that since 1991, USAID had spent USD 250 million
dollars in Namibia in education, democracy and governance,
tuberculosis (TB), and CBNRM (USD 41.6 million). She said USAID
assistance would now focus on the HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics. She
added that although USAID CBNRM support was ending, it would
continue to support partnerships in HIV/AIDS. Finally, the
Ambassador thanked all the NGOs for their excellent work and
promised to visit a number of conservancies in the near future.
10. The Namibian CBNRM policy went further than any other Southern
Africa country in giving rights over wildlife and tourism directly
to communities. That played a significant part in the popularity
and success of the program. The road ahead will be interesting as
the CBNRM program seeks other sources of funding. It will sure be a
test of the sustainability of a number of conservancies.
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