Historically, conservation NGOs in Namibia have been under-resourced to deliver services to conservancies. As Namibia moves from dependency on donor aid more than two decades after independence, NACSO and the conservancies it serves have to move towards financial independence. A mechanism for this will be a trust fund designed to provide critical conservation services.
The Community Conservation Trust Fund of Namibia
The Community Based Natural Resources (CBNRM) Programme of Namibia is arguably Africa’s leading example of devolved ‘rights and responsibilities’. Rural communities manage wildlife on communal lands, known as conservancies, and benefit directly from their stewardship of natural resources. As an internationally known and respected community based conservation programme, it has achieved and demonstrated spectacular recoveries of wildlife populations outside of formally protected areas such as national parks, including populations of the endangered black rhino.
The success of the programme has brought new challenges. Over the last decade, the number of conservancies bloomed to a total of 86, with many more in development. This impressive growth has placed an inevitable strain on the current support structures and budgets for existing and emerging conservancies. Today, the total area under community based conservation constitutes 19.6% of Namibia’s land area. If one compares this to the national parks under formal protection - 16.8% of Namibia’s total land area - one sees at once that the contribution of conservancies to the ‘national conservation effort’ is formidable indeed, and together with CBNRM’s achievements, tells a compelling story that the Global Conservation Movement cannot and should not ignore.
Despite the success, there is a substantial risk of reduced funding to CBNRM activities due to a reduction of donor support to Namibia, which is seen as a middle income country, at a time when more conservancies are being formed, some of which have large conservation potential, but lower potential for financial sustainability.
Anticipating this financial risk, a National CBNRM Sustainability Task Force met in May 2012 and endorsed the Namibia National CBNRM Sustainability Strategy which had been in development since 2009. Emanating from that strategy the Sustainability Task Force made a strong recommendation to create a CBNRM Fund. Alongside the decision to create a Fund, the National CBNRM Sustainability Task Force, in conjunction with Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO), commissioned a Financial Gap Analysis that was concluded at the end of 2014. The study showed that with all current and anticipated levels of CBNRM funding from sources existing within and outside government, there would be an annual financial gap of no less than N$ 30 million to fund the CBNRM Programme over the next 15 years.
The primary objective of the proposed Fund is to contribute to the reduction of the estimated financial gap through the provision of predictable and sustainable levels of funding. This will provide critical support to essential activities over a 15 year period and beyond. In effect, the Fund will not only support activities essential to the continued success of conservancy based conservation, also articulated under the Minimum Support Package for conservancies, but will also support activities which are important to boost community based conservation generally. Such activities may include human wildlife conflict, payment for ecological services and responses to episodic events such as periodic upsurges in poaching.
The Fund intends to build a capitalization amount of US$ 10 million, which will be managed as an ‘endowment fund’, and also to raise another US$ 5 million every 5 years for use as ‘sinking’ funds that will be managed through special projects under the Fund. The endowment fund will be invested and the expectation is that it will yield annually predictable amounts, which will be allocated to critical activities that are needed to maintain the CBNRM Programme.
The Fund will make possible the provision of critical support services that will maintain CBNRM as a viable rural development programme nationally, and will prevent the programme from losing the considerable momentum it has already generated in Namibia among economic and political decision makers. Proceeds generated from the Fund will be used to consolidate gains and help to steer Namibian conservation into the next phase, in which it will strengthen resource management, governance structures and business development in conservancies, and align community based conservation to national development objectives, so as to maintain political support for this nationally significant and internationally respected conservation initiative.
The name Community Conservation Fund of Namibia (CCFN) has been reserved by the Registrar of Companies and the Fund is awaiting legal registration as an ‘Association not for Gain’, which is subjected to the Companies Act of Namibia. The decision to operate under the Companies Act, rather than as a Common Law Trust Fund, was made because a registered company requires stricter governance procedures and reporting standards than ordinary trust funds. Strict governance of such a fund was deemed appropriate and is expected to appeal to private donors outside Namibia, which the fund will target. Additionally, the governance and administrative structures and procedures of the Fund have been developed and are contained in a Operations Manual for it. Official government endorsement for the Fund has been sought, and once granted, the Fund will be formally registered and a Board of Directors constituted to run it.