Tourism’s Local Benefits for Namibia’s Community Based
Natural Resource Management Areas
B. Libanda1 and J.N. Blignaut2
1Namibia Nature Foundation and Center for Development Support,
University of the Free State, PO Box 245, Windhoek, Namibia,
2Department of Economics, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
In recent years there has been increasing interest in, and support for the use of Payments for
Ecosystem Goods and Services (PES) as a means to advance the goals of both poverty reduction
(through the diversification of the income streams of the rural poor) and nature conservation. But,
can resources made available through PES effectively create a sufficient incentive for nature
conservation and poverty reduction? In this paper we consider evidence from Namibia’s
Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) areas with respect to such payments
and their contribution to income diversification and poverty reduction. We further describe the
evolution and current status of PES within CBNRM, summarise the Namibian conservancies’
experience on implementing PES schemes, and synthesise recommended approaches to PES.
We conclude that the Namibian government should identify strategies to reduce the transaction
costs of establishing PES-based commodities. The need to address issues of secure tenure
systems within CBNRM is also identified as being significant to the overall effectiveness of PES.
We argue that a secure tenure system has the potential to attract investors to form joint venture
Keywords: Payments for Ecosystem Goods and Services, Community Based Natural Resource
Management (CBNRM), Conservancies, Poverty alleviation, Nature Conservation.
Mathematics Subject Classification Number: 91B82, 91B76
JEL Classification: Q57, Q58, R14
Two of the most important ecosystem services offered by the Community Based Natural
Resource Management (CBNRM) areas of Namibia are biodiversity and habitat
conservation, and landscape beauty. Both of these services can be appreciated through
tourism. The question therefore is, does tourism benefit Namibia’s local communities who
have organized themselves to form a CBNRM area, and, if so, to what degree? To answer
this question we firstly discuss the history of nature conservation legislation in Namibia
dating from the 1996 Amendment Act of the Nature Conservation Ordinance that enabled
the establishment of conservancies on communal areas. This is followed by a discussion of
payments for ecosystem services (PES) and an examination of the scope of conservancies
in Namibia, their contribution towards poverty reduction and financing nature conservation,
followed by a discussion of the results and a conclusion.
International Journal of Ecological Economics & Statistics (IJEES)
Winter 2008, Vol. 10, No. W08; Int. J. Ecol. Econ. Stat.
ISSN 0973-1385 (Print), ISSN 0973-7537 (Online)
Copyright © 2008 IJEES, CESER
Namibia is an arid country with an average annual rainfall varying from above 600mm in the
northeast to less than 25 mm in the southwest. Rainfall is erratic, both temporally and
spatially, leading to large localised differences in precipitation and large fluctuations annually
(Mendelsohn et al., 2002). Before Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990,
all wild game was declared to be protected, state owned assets. This policy, initiated by the
1962 Odendaal Commission, discouraged (to put it mildly) those who inhabited communal
areas from participating in nature conservation efforts (LIFE, 2004). One consequence of
this institutional and legal arrangement was the rapid loss of wildlife in northern Namibia due
to the rampant poaching of elephants for ivory and rhinos for their horns (during the early
1980s) and various species of game for meat. In the northwest, for example, population
numbers plummeted for many wild mammals such as desert elephant, the endangered black
rhino, zebra, lion, springbok, and oryx (Jones, 2003).
Within two years after independence was gained in 1990, the Namibian government
identified the need to diversify economic activities in rural areas (Corbet and Daniels, 1996).
Wildlife-based tourism proved to be one of the main forms of livelihood and offered a unique
opportunity towards income diversification. Such tourism has a comparable advantage over
other land use options because of the area’s low rainfall and arid climatic conditions that
hamper other conventional land use practices (Jones, 2003). While tourism in general is the
third largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product in Namibia (Jones, 2003), apart from
isolated employment opportunities, local communities were historically excluded from most
of the benefits from tourism. The Nature Conservation Amendment Act of 1996 enabled the
establishment of conservancies - legally gazetted areas within the state’s communal lands -
through Namibia’s Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Programme
(Jones, 2003). Within the communal areas the state devolved partial wildlife management
rights to communal conservancies. This devolution of power opened the avenue to
introduce a system whereby local communities could benefit directly (financially and
otherwise) from protecting and managing their communal land. This has given rise to the
practical application of the payments for ecosystem services (PES) system. Note that a
conservancy is defined as an area of communal land belonging to a group of bona fide land
occupiers who have pooled their resources to practice co-operative management based on a
sustainable utilization strategy (Corbett and Jones, 2000). According to the Act any group of
persons residing on communal land may apply to the Minister of Environment and Tourism
to have the area they inhabit or part of that area declared a conservancy.
41 International Journal of Ecolo
ical Economics & Statistics
3 STUDY LOCATION
This paper concentrates on conservancies established on Namibia’s communal state land
(Figure 1) where communities have rights of occupation. By December 2006, a total number
of 50 conservancies had been registered adding substantially to the network of conservation
areas in Namibia, covering approximately 15% of Namibia’s land surface. This area,
together with 16.5% of Namibia’s surface area within national parks and game reserves
(inclusive of the shortly-to be proclaimed Sperrgebiet National Park) and a further 6% in
freehold conservancies, brought the total land surface under conservation management to
37% (NACSO, 2006).
Figure 1: Map of Registered and Emerging Conservancies, December 2006.
Source: NACSO, 2006.
Int. J. Ecol. Econ. Stat.; Vol. 10, No. W08, Winter 2008 42
4 GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO PES
There are three main types of tradable ecosystem services as identified by Gouyon (2003).
First, Watershed Services, which encompass soil protection and the regulation of the flow of
water (water reticulation), such as the Working for Water program in South Africa, and the
famous Catskills project in New York (Elliman and Berry, 2007). Second, Biodiversity
Conservation, where biodiversity is defined in its broadest sense to cover the diversity of all
forms of life and can be considered at different spatial levels in natural and human-made
ecosystems. The inter- and intra-species diversity of fauna and flora, both on micro and
macro levels, is particularly high in tropical forest ecosystems. Landscape conservation is
thus an important aspect of biodiversity conservation, especially in developed countries that
place a high value on the conservation of "traditional" or “cultural” landscapes. An example
of a biodiversity-based PES is found in Mexico, where Starbucks coffee is paying local
communities for biodiversity conservation, conservation farming, and the restoration of
natural capital (Schuyt et al., 2007). Another example is the restoration of Wildwood in
Scotland whereby the residents contribute their time and expertise to the restoration of
natural woodlands (McGhee, 2007). Third, Carbon Sequestration, which refers to the
removal of carbon from the atmosphere to counterbalance the effects of fossil fuel
emissions. Various examples of carbon-based PES exist as highlighted in Pagiola et al.
(2002) (see also Harris et al., 2006).
There are a number of different approaches to PES. In its purest form PES is a transaction
between private companies or individuals, as seen in the Starbucks example cited above.
PES, however, could also include transactions which assume a much more prominent role
for government either as buyer or seller of selected ecosystem services, such as the
Working for Water programme in South Africa and the New York Catskills examples referred
to above (see also Blignaut et al., 2007). While the term “markets for environmental service”
is applied by some (e.g., Landell-Mills and Porras (2002), to include all of these approaches,
others, for example Pagiola et al. (2002), prefer to restrict the use of this term to schemes
with the following key characteristics: (a) buyers and sellers come together on a voluntary
basis (with limited government intervention), and (b) prices are set through the interaction of
supply and demand, in other words that they are more market-driven. Generally, however, it
is acknowledged that both forms are relevant and that government does have a specific and
important function to play in determining the market for ecosystem goods and services,
especially concerning defining the regulatory environment. In this regard we will now
consider PES within the specific context of Namibia.
5 CBNRM OF NAMIBIA
In 1992 the then Ministry of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism (MWLCT) approved a policy
document that made provision for the establishment of wildlife management units called
conservancies. Following the 1992 policy document on conservancies, Namibia developed
43 International Journal of Ecolo
ical Economics & Statistics
a separate policy called “Wildlife Management, Utilization and Tourism in communal Areas”
which was approved and enacted in 1995. This policy defined the approach of devolving
conservancy management rights to communities that wish to form a communal area
conservancy. It enabled the Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) to declare
communal area conservancies once he was satisfied that they met the conditions contained
in the Act. Conservancies thus acquire rights over non-consumptive uses normally
associated with tourism. Government therefore played an instrumental role in providing the
necessary legislative platform within which communities could gain from managing their
natural resources prudently.
The intent of the 1995 policy was to enable rural communities to gain the same rights
(privileges and obligations) of use and benefit from wildlife as commercial farmers do. This
enabled communities to gain rights over tourism concessions. Not only did this empower
local communities to manage their own land, but as rights to land and wildlife resources
were devolved, the private tourism sector also recognised the need to work with local people
and acknowledge their important and enshrined role in maintaining the cultural and natural
assets. The role of communities in the business of tourism development and land use
management was thus acknowledged and appreciated for the first time. It is the natural
resource base, or the intactness of natural capital, that attracts tourists who, in return, pay
for amenity services such as access to native biodiversity and aesthetic attractiveness
Given this role distribution it does not come as a surprise that the PES’ implementation
framework within CBNRM is achieved through the establishment of partnerships between
the conservancies and private sector tourism operators (Grieg-Gran and Bann, 2003). This
is done through joint venture agreements that include joint venture lodges, trophy-hunting
contracts, hunting concessions, etc. Previously, private operators could negotiate with
government ministries for access to tourism resources on state or communal land. They
now have to deal directly with communities. Tourism partnerships are encouraged by
agencies and NGOs through the national CBNRM program as a way of accessing private
sector financing for rural development, which can make the new conservancies financially
more viable and self-sustaining. Government agencies, principally the Directorate of Parks
and Wildlife Development and conservation NGOs are promoting more formal partnerships
by acting as facilitators or advisors to communities.
By the end of October 2006, ten years since its inception in 1996, no less than 50
conservancies were in operation on 118,705 km² of desert, savannah, and woodland areas,
i.e., 38% of the non-urban land in Namibia, which are occupied by ca. 215,000 people, or
37% of the rural population of the country (NACSO, 2006). As indicated in Table 1, CBNRM
in Namibia has grown rapidly since the mid-1990s and continues to do so, which is an
indication of how well this policy has been received by the local population. At the time of
Int. J. Ecol. Econ. Stat.; Vol. 10, No. W08, Winter 2008 44
writing, 31 further conservancies are in various stages of development. The number of
beneficiaries continues to increase as well, as does its contributions to net national income
Table 1: Growth in the CBNRM and conservancy’s related activities, 1998-2006.
Year Number of
area of newly
Number of new
e number of
people living in
people living in
1998 4 13,455 13,455 6,302 6,302 14,400 14,000
1999 5 4,848 18,303 4,891 11,193 10,530 24,940 2,439,824
2000 1 3,568 21,871 85 11,278 260 25,190 3,411,260
2001 5 15,477 37,384 1,971 13,249 6,220 31,410 6,124,195
2002 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 11,129,952
2003 14 30,281 67,629 29,914 43,163 64,050 95,460 13,503,055
2004 2 11,080 78,709 1,548 44,711 3,800 99,260 14,517,467
2005 13 26,330 105,039 6,721 51,432 111,860 211,120 20,099,173
2006 6 13,666 118,705 2,395 53,827 3,800 214,920 N/A
Total 50 - -
Source: NACSO, 2006.
Table 2 illustrates the new financial injection CBNRM brought to the rural economies of
Namibia. Safari operators are buying the rights to bring sport hunters or eco-tourists into the
CBNRM concession areas either to hunt a set quota of animals, or to track, observe and
photograph animals, or simply to enjoy the scenic qualities of an area. There are several
ways in which communities benefit from the CBNRM-based PES, including direct payments
to individual and households, and/or community-level benefits such as hospitals and
schools, and indirect benefits such as community empowerment and land tenure security.
These community benefits will be discussed in more detail next.
45 International Journal of Ecolo
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Int. J. Ecol. Econ. Stat.; Vol. 10, No. W08, Winter 2008 46
6 BENEFITS OF CBNRM
One of the central aims of CBNRM is to improve the livelihoods of rural people through the
sustainable use of natural resources (NACSO, 2006). The sums of money now being
earned in this way are considerable (almost N$ 20 million in 2005; see Table 3). Most
importantly, these are new or additional activities that give many households access to cash
and other benefits that they never had before, and that would not have been possible prior to
the passage of innovative conservancy legislation in 1996.
6.1 Biodiversity benefits of CBNRM and PES in Namibia
The development of CBNRM has contributed to the maintenance of habitat for wildlife and
has helped to promote wildlife management and nature-based tourism as legitimate land
uses (Jones & Weaver 2003). Most of the registered conservancies have zoned specific
areas in their conservancies as dedicated wildlife management areas in which tourism is
promoted through charging payments for preserving biodiversity and landscape beauty.
CBNRM is hence contributing to a recovery of wildlife populations across large parts of
northern Namibia, providing migration corridors for wildlife between isolated protected areas
(Jones, 2003). Eighteen of the registered conservancies are found immediately adjacent to
or in key corridors between national parks or game reserves. These 18 conservancies
provide an additional 55,192km² of land used for conservation to the existing protected area
network of 114,080km², increasing land available to wildlife by 48.4% beyond the existing
protected area system (LIFE, 2004). The population growth of such endangered species as
black rhino and Hartmann’s zebra is well documented in northwest Namibia. Elephant
numbers are increasing steadily - from 300 in the early 1990s to around 950 at present, and
elephants are expanding their range in both the northwest and northeast (Natural Resource
Working Group, 2006).
6.2 Financial benefits
The most effective way to secure markets for ecosystem services is to sub-lease land to the
private sector (i.e. sub-leasing of an area of the conservancy to a commercial hunting
operator(s) or photographic operator(s)) and/or to sell natural resources directly to third
parties (i.e., sale of wildlife quota or the sustainable sale of veld products). Financial
benefits through PES are also derived from the sale of products made from natural
resources (i.e., crafts, basketry, biltong) and from enterprises initiated by the communities
themselves (i.e., guided bushwalks, cultural village, community campsites, grinding mill,
petrol station, hardware store). These enterprises are often financed with capital derived
from subleasing the land or from the direct sale of natural resources.
47 International Journal of Ecolo
ical Economics & Statistics
Table 3: CBNRM benefits 1997-2005.
Source: NACSO, 2006.
7,3N$= 1US$ in December 2006
When analysing the income earned of N$16.4m (= US$ 2.2M) during the year 2005, it is
evident that the earnings supplement the current existing income to the extent of about
N$310 per household on an average basis, which is more than 6% of the average annual
household income per capita in rural areas, which was N$5 140 in 2004 (National Planning
Commission, 2006). Currently, only a few conservancies do make actual cash payments to
individual households, but it is foreseen that all conservancies will do so shortly. The value
of non-financial benefits is mostly bush meat and is calculated as the market price for meat
time the volume consumed.
6.3 Social benefits
Deriving income from PES is clearly a powerful mechanism for improving the lives and
livelihoods of individual families, but it also brings significant societal benefits by making the
distribution of wealth in a community more equal. Without PES income distribution in rural
communities is often significantly skewed, with a large gap between rich and poor (Vedeld et
al., 2004). If PES is included in the income profile, however, the gap between rich and poor
shrinks. By providing an income source to those without other assets and creating
employment from natural resource use, PES diversifies the income stream and increases
economic equity. Table 4 presents the employment opportunities created under the CBNRM
by 2005. There were 682 full time jobs and 5,155 part time ones, all benefiting directly from
employment. The income earned by these people employed is included in the financial data
in Tables 2 & 3.
6.4 Disbursements of benefits
What happens to the income earned by conservancies? More specifically, how is this
income used, who benefits, how much reaches the members of the conservancies, and what
Int. J. Ecol. Econ. Stat.; Vol. 10, No. W08, Winter 2008 48
proportions are spent on management? Answers to these questions can be provided from
an analysis of disbursements in 2005 (Figure 2). It should be noted that disbursements are
not equal to income earned in a specific year since funds are carried over from year to year.
This means that a portion of funds spent in 2005 accrued from earnings in previous years,
while some 2005 income will only be used in 2006 or thereafter. In 2005 a total of US$1 522
166 was disbursed, the money broadly going to either the management of conservancies or
as wages and benefits to member households. These were the total payments in 29 of the
44 registered conservancies; the remaining 15 newly established conservancies had no
income or expenditure (NACSO, 2006), but are likely to make similar disbursements when
fully operational. Note that the US$1 522 166 had been earned in and by the conservancies,
and excludes any spending by donors and/or any other support agencies.
Table 4: Total number of job created in 2005
Sector Full time Part Time
Campsites/CBTEs 195 50
Trophy hunting 18 22
Joint venture tourism 307 58
Game donation 0 0
Crafts 1 1,381
Game meat distribution 0 0
Own use game 0 0
Interest earned 0 0
Miscellaneous 0 2
Thatching grass 80 3,464
Live game sale 0 0
Conservancy staff 0 0
Source: NACSO, 2006.
The distribution of direct benefits (cash payments) from CBNRM activities within
conservancies is disbursed to registered members only. Unregistered members benefit from
social donations by the conservancies. In some communities, a portion of the revenues from
community-based enterprises has been directed to investments in key infrastructure needs,
such as the construction of schools and clinics, development of drinking water, and the
extension of electricity service. For example, the Khoadi //Hôas Conservancy was able to
contribute a total amount of N$ 25,000.00 towards school fees and books in 2004. Individual
equal cash payouts to registered members of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy were N$620 to
each of 770 members, where the number of members is relatively small, and the revenue
considerable. The amounts contributed by the Nyae Nyae Conservancy to household
incomes appear small when translated into currency such as US$, or when considered in
isolation. Their significance becomes clear when one considers these contributions in
relation to purchasing power and average incomes in local contexts. The most common use
of the cash in Nyae Nyae Conservancy was for school fees, as the payout took place in
January 2006 prior to the start of the new school year.
It should be note though that PES is time-consuming and complicated to implement and
sometimes expectations are too high. Social and political development processes are also
49 International Journal of Ecolo
ical Economics & Statistics
necessary before compensation mechanisms can be established. And these new economic
opportunities are do carry risk for farmers since markets are often unstable and uncertain,
and suppliers do not have the competence and the capacity to make direct contact with
buyers. To establish a PES system like the one described is costly making projects
dependent on external financial resources for especially its initial transaction cost (Wymann
et al., 2004). Nonetheless, as the results above indicate, despite these obstacles PES-
based CBNRM is possible to impact positively both socio-economically and environmentally
on the people and biodiversity alike.
Figure 2: Analysis of expenditures and disbursement in 2003 & 2005 in Namibian Dollars.
Source: NACSO, 2006.
7,3N$= 1US$ in December 2006
Social Benefits are donations such as contribution to support orphans, school fees, pensioner’s food,
Cash Payments are payouts to registered members of the conservancies.
Capital Development including infrastructure and human resource development.
Running Costs are operational expenses, e.g. petrol, office equipments, stationeries, etc.
Conservancy Jobs are total value of jobs offered by conservancies to local people in terms of salary
Household Meat is the total market-base value of game meat distributed for household consumption,
festivals, cultural events, etc.
Private Sector Jobs is the total values of job payments created through joint venture partnerships
including trophy hunting, lodge establishment, etc.
This paper provides evidence indicating that compensating land users for delivering PES
does contribute significantly to rural income streams. Income from conservancies has risen
from zero in 1996 to over N$19 million (= US$ 2.6M) in 2005. Spending by conservancies
has almost doubled since 2003, rising from a total of US$870 258 to US$1 522 166 in 2005.
Int. J. Ecol. Econ. Stat.; Vol. 10, No. W08, Winter 2008 50
Despite its attractiveness to diversify rural income and improve livelihood, PES faces several
challenges. These include scientific uncertainties regarding the inter-linkages and trade-offs
between ecosystem services as well as how these services can be provided effectively, the
design and enforcement of respective institutional arrangements (tenure rights within
CBNRM) and associated transaction costs. The lack of secure tenure and enforcement
hinders the ability of PES mechanisms to attract new investors. This is evident from the few
conservancies that have secured joint venture agreements with the private sector observed
during previous decades in comparison with the number of registered conservancies. The
transaction costs for biodiversity conservation and landscaping, which are the main types of
PES marketed in Namibia, remain high and the Government of Namibia should identify a
strategic policy that would reduce the costs. Some models should be considered for PES to
be more effective such as devolution of more rights on natural resource use to communities
and an improvement of the land tenure right system that will attract more joint venture
The authors are grateful to Brian Jones, Jon Barnes, and James Aronson for comments
received on earlier drafts of this paper.
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