February 20, 2007

Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Namibia: A Case Study

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Can indigenous people protect their environment and, at the same time, develop strong businesses that help diversify their livelihoods and alleviate poverty? In Namibia, the answer is yes.

Through community-based natural resource management (CBNRM), Namibians who form conservancies now have legal rights to manage wildlife and benefit from tourism. With these secure rights, and with help from NGOs and the government, something extraordinary is happening: wildlife numbers, which were decimated by war and poaching, are rising, and ecosystems are rebounding. Namibians also now have the chance to build businesses based on eco-tourism and related activities, and these businesses are helping to improve the lives of conservancy members.

Namibia’s experience with CBNRM may provide a strong model for other countries: devolving secure legal rights to local people has gone a long way towards promoting positive outcomes both in terms of conservation and economic development. While it is among the best examples of CBNRM in Africa, the Namibia program has some weaknesses.

These include:

* no legal right for conservancies to exclude unwanted/harmful outsiders;

* a confused process for resolving conflicting land use claims; and

* an institutional environment that imposes unnecessary costs on entrepreneurs and small businesses.

By addressing these weaknesses and continuing to support capacity-building efforts for conservancies, the Namibian government and the international donor community could further strengthen this exciting enterprise-based solution to poverty in Africa.


Citation (Chicago Style):

Boudreaux, Karol. "Community-Based Natural Management in Namibia." Mercatus Policy Series Policy Comment, No. 11. Arlington, VA: Mercatus Center at George Mason University,  February 2007.