Natural resources are vital to Namibia’s economy and as support to people’s livelihoods. It is against this background that Namibia adopted approaches that empower natural resource users to take control over the sustainable management and use of resources in the prevailing variable environment. Today, Namibia is internationally recognised for its involvement of communities in natural resources management and conservation while supporting rural development. The concept of community based management of natural resources, ranging from wildlife, water, forests, and rangelands to tourism, has been evolving since the early 1990s. It started off with a focus on wildlife management – through a now widely adopted programme of Community Based Natural Resource Management - only to be followed by Namibia’s Programme to Combat Desertification with its Forums for Integrated Resource Management, and soon thereafter followed by Community Based Management of water resources now implemented throughout the country. The approach progressed to include other natural resources such as forests and tourism.
The success of the approach lies with transferring user rights and responsibilities to communities, developing communal institutions and enhancing incentives and benefits that communities derive from community based management and conservation. Throughout the past 23 years, government as well as NGOs, men and women, have contributed to these varied approaches with varying success and acceptance – within government itself and the varied communities involved. This overall approach has, nevertheless, resulted in extensive government, NGO and community cooperation in a manner uncommon in southern Africa.
The challenges remaining are wide ranging. For example, in some areas a community group may be managing wildlife and tourism, but another group may be focused on water management, rangeland mangement or forestry. Even policies related to these various resources are not always compatable. Equitable distribution of benefits also remains an ongoing challenge amongst the dynamic, mobile populations of communtal areas.
Through this side event, Namibia will share its varied experiences on the contribution of community based management in combating DLD and addressing the challenge of frequent dry periods and drought. It seeks to engage the international community in discussions on its achievements, challenges and outlook into the future.
[six speakers, five institutions and facilitated discussion]