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What is CBNRM?

A brief history of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in Namibia

Human - Wildlife conflict: elephant damaging water pipe. Photo: J. Storm
Social development and economic growth are key priorities. Photo: Ronny Dempers
Eland being captured for translocation. Photo: L. Baker

One of the many tasks facing the newly independent Namibia Government in the early 1990s was to evolve a structure for the management of wildlife resources. The South African administration had granted commercial farmers some rights over wildlife, but these rights did not extend to communal areas. During the armed struggle many animals were hunted almost to extinction, and communal farmers were often in conflict with animals such as hippos and elephants which damaged their crops, and therefore adversely affected their livelihoods.

The idea of a national CBNRM support structure emerged in the early 1990s through the work of the CBNRM partners, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the national NGOs, and was supported by the USAID funded Living in a Finite Environment (LIFE) project. International support was received through USAID, DfID, SIDA, WWF and others together with domestic support from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the NNF and others. The objective was "to promote activities that demonstrate that sustainably managed natural resources can result in social development and economic growth, and in suitable partnership between local communities and government." This has certainly been demonstrated and the programme has been successfully mainstreamed into national development - representing one of CBNRM's major, over-riding achievements. CBNRM and the conservancy programme are now an integral part of Namibia's Millenium Development Goals, Rural Poverty Reduction, Rural Development, National Development Plants, Vision 2030 and so on. In short, it is a win-win livelihoods and conservation/sustainability programme.

To provide a structure for the CBNRM concept to develop, legislation was tabled in 1996 to allow for the formation of communal conservancies. These conservancies would take responsibility for the natural resources, mainly wildlife, within their boundaries by monitoring numbers and preventing poaching, but it was essential that they should perceive wildlife as a valuable resource. This they did, for attracting tourists and for hunting in a managed and sustainable way. The conservancy movement has been a great success, and there are now 79 registered conservancies in Namibia, and several in the process or registration.

View information on Namibia's communal conservancies.

The approach of the CBNRM programme in Namibia

The CBNRM programme has three main elements:

  1. A natural resource management and conservation programme. It promotes wise and sustainable management of natural resources, encouraging biodiversity conservation by creating the necessary conditions for sustainable use.
  2. A rural development programme. It seeks to devolve rights and responsibilities over wildlife and tourism to rural communities, thereby creating opportunities for enterprise development and income generation.
  3. An empowerment and capacity building programme. It encourages and assists communities and their local institutions to develop the skills and experience to sustainably develop and pro-actively pilot their own futures.

A comprehensive overview on the current state of Namibia's conservancies can be found in the latest State of Conservancy update booklet.

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