Community-based natural resource management in Namibia

On we regularly feature success stories of initiatives and projects that have applied a dialogic stakeholder approach. The last story to be featured this year is the story of how community based natural resource management was turned into a succes in Namibia.

After the apartheid in Namibia the black population in Namibia was left with no chance of owning land titles or wildlife. As a result there was no incentive for them to care for the land they lived on – as a consequence over the years wildlife and natural resources soon decreased. To tackle this problem a new conservancy policy was introduced in 1996. Under the policy communities can register for the land they live on to be declared a conservancy – the communities in return have to look after the wildlife and are entitled to benefit from the utilization of wildlife.

Namibia Conservancies


A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Karine Nuulimba of the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) an organization that, together with the WWF, played a major role in initiating this change process in Namibia. The interview with Karine was very inspiring – she passionately shared her insights with me on the success factors of the people-centered community-based natural resource management – an approach that is rooted in the fruitful collaboration between local communities, government bodies and NGOs.

So here is what worked for them:

Making the advantages and disadvantages of the project transparent and easy to understand

It was made sure that every member of a community involved understood the implications of applying as conservancy. Only then did a community decide for or against an application.

Ensuring ownership through participation in planning and set-up

The fact that the exact set-up of the conservancy including its boundaries was not predefined by government officials has proven a valuable instrument to engage the villagers and to ensure their ownership in designing their very own conservancy.

Listen attentively

Being listened to by government staff was a unique experience for most, and the open, non-prescriptive process contributed to the remarkable degree of popular support that continues to drive the national program.

Deciding jointly on rules and regulations

The conservancy´s constitution was formulated in a highly integrative manner. The core group decided jointly on a constitution draft including for example rules on how the conservancy committee is going to be elected or what the exact purpose of the conservancy is going to be.

Encouraging peer-learning

The network between the different conservancies was very closely knit. Peer-learning was encouraged, for example in a chairperson’s forum that dealt with issues that crossed conservation boundaries. As other learning mechanisms a mentoring program and cluster trainings were introduced.

In Namibia until today more than 79 communities have joined forces under the conservancy policy leading to 21% of the countries resources to be cultivated sustainably. To read the whole story, please visit You will also find many other exciting success stories!