The Namibian government is currently addressing twin goals of environment protection and rural economic development by means of an innovative policy of community-based natural resource management. This policy, implemented by a legislative amendment in 1996, is helping to revive a previously decimated environment. At the same time, the policy is empowering local people: strengthening social capital, creating jobs and other entrepreneurial opportunities, and improving local governance structures.
The core of this policy change involves a devolution of property rights to indigenously managed conservancies. Conservancies are provided with legal rights to manage the wildlife population and to benefit from tourism taking place within the conservancy’s grounds. Benefiting from tourism creates an incentive for conservancy members to preserve and maintain wildlife, as these are the major attractions for tourists. This ecotourism model is both economically and environmentally sustainable and has succeeded in increasing the income and human capital of Namibians who own land or work on conservancies, and has led to a major recovery in wildlife species in Namibia.
Though the system has been successful, there are weaknesses that should be addressed, including: incomplete legal rights surrounding conservancies, incomplete conflict resolution mechanisms, and a weak institutional environment. This paper argues that the Namibian government should extend the legal rights conservancies hold in order to create a more vibrant institutional environment.
Boudreaux, Karol. "A New Call of the Wild: Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Namibia." Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, 2008.