13 Reasons Namibia Is A World Leader In Joint-Venture And Community-Based Tourism

13 Reasons Namibia Is A World Leader In Joint-Venture And Community-Based Tourism

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One of nine children, Lena Florry was a Namibian goat herder who spent the first half of her life barefoot. That was her destiny, she thought.

Then, 20 years ago, a safari camp was built near Lena’s village, and she applied for a job as a waitress. Within a year, she became an assistant manager. A year later, she became Namibia’s first black lodge manager, according to a 2012 HuffingtonPost report.

Tourism has transformed the lives of thousands of Namibians and turned them into conservationists.

With the world’s highest population of cheetahs, Namibia also plays host to thriving elephant and rhino species. It’s one of a few African countries supporting six species of large carnivores — lions, spotted hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards and brown hyenas. Tourists interested in volunteer-based holidays contribute to various research and education programs and help support nature conservation financially.

Namibia has undergone a conservation revolution and in the process, generated jobs and income for thousands of rural residents through safari tourism.

Empowered by their constitution, Namibians exchanged generations of poaching, wildlife conflict, and unsustainable land use for unparalleled levels of habitat protection, wildlife conservation and sustainable development, the HuffngtonPost reported.

Central to Namibia’s conservation revolution is communal conservancies that give neighboring communities the right to oversee wildlife and natural resources on their communal land.

Thanks to innovative legislation, the Namibian government gave these rights to the conservancies with the understanding that rural communities will use natural resources in a sustainable manner if these resources have sufficient value and benefit.

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Ground-breaking legislation in Namibia in the mid-’90s laid the foundation for this new approach to natural resource management and conservation. By forming conservancies, people in communal areas can actively manage and generate returns from natural resources. This supports environmental restoration, and wildlife populations have increased.  As a result, economic benefits have grown for local people through tourism.

Lena was promoted to regional manager, overseeing operations of three safari camps in her conservancy, and she led a team of 200 community members working there.

Here are 12 reasons Namibia is a world leader in joint-venture and community-based tourism.

Sources: Linking Tourism and Conservation, TourismUpdate, HuffingtonPost, CommunityConservationNamibia. NACSO,

Namibia conservancy
Dolomite Camp, Etosha in Namibia. Photo: Hoberman/Getty

Namibia is a world leader

Namibia’s communal conservancy program has become the most successful community-based natural resource management initiative on Earth. And there’s an acronym for that — CBNRM. Namibia has at least 82 registered communal conservancies, one community conservation association in a National Park, 15 concessions in National Parks or on other state land, 32 community forests, 66 community range-land management areas and three community fish reserves.

Source: Linking Tourism and Conservation

Namibia conservancy
Flamingos, Walvis Bay, Namibia. undp.exposure.co

By the numbers: Namibia conservation management

Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution. Today, almost half — about 46 percent — of Namibia’s surface area is under conservation management. This includes national parks and game reserves (19 percent), communal conservancies and other community conservation (20 percent), as well as commercial conservancies, private nature reserves and tourism concessions (7 percent). Another 3 percent of Namibia is restricted to diamond mining in the Southwest.

Source: Linking Tourism and Conservation

Namibia conservation
Meercats, wikipedia.org

Poaching not an option

Wildlife has become valuable and poaching is no longer an option, thanks to Namibia’s conservancy movement, HuffPost reports. The result? Wildlife has recovered. Since 1995, Namibia’s desert-adapted lion population quadrupled, the elephant population more than doubled and the endangered black rhino populations are healthy enough to be relocated out of national parks and into communal conservancies.

Today, wildlife is the basis of a new rural economy that is creating jobs and providing direct benefits to communities that have chosen to live in harmony with it.

Source: HuffingtonPost.

Namibia conservancy
Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary Volunteers,

Much of Namibia’s wildlife lives outside protected areas on private and communal land

Despite the impression of unlimited space, Namibia is an arid environment with low carrying capacity for both humans and wildlife. About 20 percent of the total area is National Parks and restricted areas, 40 percent is communal area and 40 percent of the land is privately owned. Today, much of the wildlife lives outside protected areas on private farmland and communal land. These areas, therefore, play a crucial role in the sustainable management and conservation of the country’s wildlife.

Source: Linking Tourism and Conservation

Nambwa Tented Lodge, Namibia conservancy
Nambwa Tented Lodge, nambwalodge.com

The Mayuni Conservancy

The Nambwa Camp on the Kwando River in the Zambezi region is a popular camp for travelers. Although the camp is located inside the Bwabwata National Park, it is run almost entirely by the Mayuni Conservancy.

Hidden between the trees above the campsite is Nambwa Lodge, a section of secluded luxury tents built on a wooden platforms. It is run in a joint venture with the conservancy and African Monarch, a Namibian company that provides training and recruitment for field guides and the hospitality industries.

Guests have king-sized beds, bubble baths, and food prepared by staff hired from the conservancy. The main attraction is 20,000 elephants moving through the park to and from Botswana (hopefully not all at the same time), according to Steve Felton, spokesman for Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (NACSO) and World Wildlife Fund Namibia.

Source: TourismUpdate

Namibia conservancies
Namibia’s conservancies support a variety of research projects such as radio telemetry on large carnivores. Photo: Birgit Förster/ltandc.org.

Farmers incentivized to keep wildlife alive

Growing wildlife populations and safari tourism in Namibia create new challenges. With much healthier game numbers  come more frequent human-wildlife conflict — such as lions eating cattle and elephants trampling crops. Compensation mechanisms for farmers are disputed. Historically, any animal causing damage would be killed, but thanks to conservancy-tourism partnerships, these same farmers and herders understand the benefits of keeping animals alive for the good of their communities.

To live with wildlife means striving for balanced land use and a healthy environment. Game does not need to be eradicated from a landscape when it threatens crops or livestock, according to LTC. Financial returns from wildlife can exceed its costs. Various types of tourism exist in Namibia such as photo safaris, excursions, adventure tours, and research expeditions. Even the controversial practice of trophy hunting is considered by some as an important conservation tool in Namibia.

Source: HuffingtonPost, Linking Tourism and Conservation

Namibia conservancy
Cheetah cub, barefoot-namibia.com

“What pays that stays”

In Namibia’s past when farmers had few rights to use wildlife, wild animals were seen as a threat to livestock, crops and infrastructure, and community safety. Conservation management was limited to protected areas. In 1967 Namibia’s farmers were given commercial rights over wildlife and indigenous plants. The implementation of these rights resulted in wildlife being used and valued (“What pays that stays”) by the private sector. Later, people in communal areas received the same rights much (1996-2001) when policies were adopted to promote community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). Since then the wildlife sector was also driven into a rapid growth on communal land.

Source: Linking Tourism and Conservation

Namibia conservancy
Okahirongo River Camp, Marienfluss Conservancy,

Public-private partnerships in tourism

Community-based tourism in Namibia is based on the joint-venture principle: private sector tourism operators partner with communal conservancies to build and run lodges, campsites and tours on sustainable principles. High quality lodges and activities bring income to conservancies which protect wildlife and the environment.

With the help of local and international NGOs, the communal conservancies are forging innovative joint-venture partnerships with tourism investors and management companies, creating high-quality tourism lodges and experiences that have direct financial benefits to the conservancies and individual communities. These joint ventures range from simple land-lease payments to fully community-owned lodges. In addition to jobs, revenue earned as part of these ventures is paid to a community fund that supports local projects such as education, water access and health care.

Source: HuffingtonPost.

Grootberg Lodge
Grootberg Lodge. Photo: Jake Lye.mmc.gov

The ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy

While there’s plenty of online information about the meaning of ≠Khoadi-//Hôas — it’s named after the Khoekhoegowab phrase for “elephant’s corner” — its pronounciation is a mystery, at least to AFKInsider. 

What is undisputed is the fact that the conservancy’s Grootberg Lodge has spectacular views down the Klip River Valley and is popular with tourists, according to TourismUpdate.

Grootberg Lodge is located between the panoramic landscapes of Kunene north and south on the Grootberg Pass.

Rhino tracking is the main attraction with experienced guides and trackers. Guests will likely see elephants, oryx, kudu, giraffe, and lots of birds.

Established in 1998, ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy benefits more than 3,000 residents with programs that take advantage of the region’s extraordinary natural beauty and wildlife.

Source: TourismUpdate, NACSO.org

Namibia conservancy
Wolwedans Boulders Camp, Namibrand Nature Rreserve, abercrombiekent.co.uk

Commercial Conservancies

In addition to community-based tourism, a large number of commercial farmers established free-hold conservancies and tourism enterprises on private lands. In contrast to community-based tourism, commercial conservancies are not supported by the government. They must function self-sufficiently from Day 1. Two well established examples are the N/a’an ku sê Foundation and NamibRand Nature Reserve.

Source: Linking Tourism and Conservation


“We will live with wildlife”

Thanks to the communal conservancy system, communities across Namibia have made the commitment, “We will live with wildlife.” It’s not a sacrifice but a choice that ensures prosperity for the community and the country as a whole.

Source: HuffingtonPost.

Doro !Nawas
Doro !Nawas Camp Safari Lodges. gondwanatoursandsafaris.com

Doro !Nawas Conservancy

Wilderness Safaris operates the Doro !Nawas Camp in conjunction with the community. Accommodation in the form of 16 units all designed to blend into the hillside.

The Doro !Nawas Conservancy is a good base to explore Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with magnificent rock art and engravings, a petrified forest and incredible geological formations, according to TourismUpdate.

Twyfelfontein is home to the Living Museum of the Damara, the first traditional Damara project in Namibia. “Visitors have the unique opportunity to get to know the fascinating traditional culture of the Damara, thus contributing to the preservation of the culture as well as to regular income for the Damara community that built the museum,” said Victoria Short, marketing manager of Springbok Atlas.

Despite the region’s arid habitat, wildlife — especially desert-adapted elephant — are a big attraction in the Doro !Nawas Conservancy.

Source: TourismUpdate, NACSO.org

Namibia conservation
Skeleton Coast, Namibia, shipwreck. Photo: bugbitten.com

Future of community-based tourism in Namibia

More Namibian conservancies are expected to become self-sufficient. A substantial number of conservancies that once depended to some degree on grant aid will cover their operational costs from their income in the future.

Community-based conservation may grow to a larger number of conservancies up to 90 or 100. This will help grow tourism in Namibia.

Although Namibia’s entire coastline is protected through a national parks network, marine biodiversity is essentially unprotected. The status of two marine reserves, which cover less than 1 percent of Namibia’s marine environment, needs clarification and augmentation with new Marine Protected Areas.

Source: Linking Tourism and Conservation