Conservancy windfalls: A tale of contradictions

Conservancy windfalls:  A tale of contradictions

DESIE HEITA
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Namibia’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources launched a scathing critique ever on the country’s national policy on human wildlife conflict management, turning the long-standing policy on its head.
It was found that government’s glorious public reports on earnings and benefits derived from community-based conservancies are in a stark contrast to the actual reality on the ground. And the consequences of human wildlife conflict are causing much more serious social and material damage to the poor communities who are supposedly benefiting from the wildlife conservancies.

As a result the committee made recommendations, chief of which is to conduct “a genuine review of the community based natural resources programme because its lofty promises seemed to have been jettisoned during the implementation process.”

The other recommendation is that the environment ministry “should expedite review of the National Policy on Human Wildlife Conflict Management with the view of incorporating fair and commensurate compensation to victims of human wildlife conflict.”

“The revised policy should take into account views expressed in this report,” read part of the recommendations in the report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources on 14 October 2016.

The report is hand-signed by all but one of the Members of Parliament who made up the committee. They are Marina Kandumbu, Agnes Kafula, Annakleta Sikerete, Liina Namupala, Salmon Fleermuys, Vipuakuje Mahaurukua, Clara //Gowasses and Margaret Mahoto, who did sign the report.

The report was presented during the first human-wildlife management conference in Windhoek this week. It brought into questions the statement by the environment minister, Pohamba Shifeta, during the opening of the same event, on how the 82 registered conservancies in the country are “benefiting thousands of our rural communities through employment, cash income, social projects and in-kind benefits.”

Shifeta also said income earned by conservancies makes a significant contribution to rural development.
However, in their report the parliamentarians noted that communities are not happy with meagre income received for resources and conservancies management, with earnings ranging between N$500 and N$650 per month. “By any standard, these are starvation wages,” they said.

“The overly positive narrative about community based natural resources management (CBNRM) does not reflect reality on the ground or in the communities,” reads the report.

The report shot down the 2014/15 state of community conservation in Namibia report that between 1990 and 2014 community conservation contributed about N$4,15 billion to Namibia’s net national income and that in 2014 community conservancies generated about N$91,2 million in returns for local communities.

“If so much money is generated by the CBNRM programme, then conservancies should be able to pay fair compensation to victims of human wildlife conflict and pay decent living wages to their few employees,” the report noted curtly.

The committee members made their findings after consulting with communities in Zambezi, Kunene, Kavango East and West regions during the period April to May 2016. It was there that they learnt that the money paid as compensation for loss of livestock and crops due to wildlife is not sufficient. Notably, compensation for the loss of life is N$5000 while the highest compensation for livestock is at N$1500.

The other concerns expressed were that compensation is only offered when the livestock destroyed was in the kraal or the crop in the field. There is no compensation for livestock lost in the field or crop in silo.

The MPs recommended that the tourism ministry consider real empowerment of communal communities to have full control of their conservancies when it comes to running their own lodges and conducting own trophy hunting.
Because of danger posed by wild animals to people especially young children, the committee recommended that environment ministry erect fence that is wildlife proof around all communal conservancies.

It also should be fast in responding to incidents of such conflict. It further proposed that ministry decentralise its decision-making powers to enable regional officials to decide what to do in case of human wildlife confrontation.
The environment ministry has also been implored to investigate reports of alleged killing of livestock that strays into Etosha.

And the recommendation regarding killing of human beings by such animals, government should consider maintaining dependants of victims of such incidents until these becomes 21, it was suggested.

The committee cautions that many communal people perceive wildlife in these conservancies as being government property and this is the reason why many of them demand compensation whenever such animals cause damage to their properties.

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