Namibia's Communal Conservancy Tourism Sector (NACSO) is achieving conservation and community benefits at a scale never before seen in Africa. Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and the government has reinforced this by giving its communities the opportunity and rights to manage their wildlife through communal conservancies.
Today there are 59 registered Communal Conservancies covering 16.8% of the land area of Namibia, or 130,000 km2 of prime wildlife habitat. Some 29 joint-venture lodges and campsites operate in partnership with conservancies, a vibrant and growing part of the destination's tourism profile.
The result may well be 'the greatest African wildlife recovery story ever told'
Conservation will fail, however, if it does not improve the life of the community. Conservancy projects in Namibia have so far improved the life of 1 in 8 Namibians. Other countries around the world are now looking to Namibia to learn lessons to adapt for them. The benefits to tourists and travellers to the country are that they find themselves more appreciative of what they are experiencing as they feel that they truly getting a meaningful story to return home with.
There are a lot of private operators in Namibia who are also dedicated to the cause of conservation.
Namibia is currently featured on ITV1's Cheetah Kingdom. This series is following the amazing work done by the team at The AfriCat Foundation (www.africat.org) in running the largest cheetah and leopard rescue-and-release programme in the world.
Namibia is home to approximately 25% of the world’s cheetah population of which 90% live on farmland. Namibia's other large carnivores, namely, leopards, lions, wild dogs and brown and spotted hyenas, are not believed to consist of such large percentages of the world's population; however, they also reside on the unique farmland ecosystem. It is the inevitable conflict with humans on commercial and communal farmland that created the demand for the establishment of the AfriCat Foundation.
Great similar work is also carried out by Harnas Wildlife Foundation (www.harnas.org). They have a basis mission and a vision. A Harnas is a protective breastplate worn into battle, and it is a symbol for the mission of Harnas: to protect an environment that includes all forms of life, ensuring endurance and sustainability.
Namibia's desert elephants living in the Kunene regions are a source of great interest. What makes the desert elephants living in the Kunene Region so special is the fact that they are free roaming - their movement is not restricted by a fence, like it would be if they were living in a National Park.
Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) is a Namibian registered non-governmental organization (NGO), which runs an elephant conservation and volunteer project in Namibia. EHRA aims to find long-term sustainable solutions to the ever-growing problem of facilitating the peaceful co-habitation between the subsistence farmers, community members and the desert adapted elephants.
Through concerted efforts, the population of desert dwelling elephants in the region has grown from as low as 52 members to a current population of over 600 elephants.
The desert adapted black rhinoceros surviving in the Kunene Region (former Damaraland and Kaokoland) in the arid north-west of Namibia are the only rhino world-wide that have survived on communal land with no formal conservation status. In the early 1980's in this vast, strangely beautiful and spectacular desert scenery, a savage slaughter of desert wildlife was taking place. As the rhino numbers shrank to near extinction, a group of concerned people (scientists; geologists; community leaders; nature conservation officials; farmers; journalists; housewives and businessmen) gathered together to form a trust fund.
Since the founding of the Save the Rhino Trust 20 years ago, poaching has drastically declined and the rhino population has more than doubled. Initially convicted poachers were employed by the Save the Rhino Trust (as they had extensive knowledge of the habits of rhino). The aim to stop the extermination of the endangered Black Rhino from the communal land has been enthusiastically supported by the Chiefs and headmen as well as the neighbouring farming community.
Construction was completed on Etambura Camp, the first luxury tented camp in Namibia owned entirely by the local communities. Run by Conservancy Safaris (www.kcs-namibia.com.na) and set on a remote hill top in the North West Kunene region, the camp will offer the ultimate desert camping in comfort.
Etambura Camp is in the Orupembe Conservancy in the western Himbaland, a 3,565 square kilometre area of mountains, hills, plains and tree-lined dry river beds. In Herero "etaa mbura" means “see the rain all over” and appropriately the construction of Conservancy Safaris latest venture is on the summit of a hilltop in one of the remotest parts of the Kunene Region. Conservancy Safaris, and Etambura Camp, are entirely owned by the local communities with 100% of the profit going to the hosts, the local Himba and Herero people.