WINDHOEK (June 11, 2005) – Namibia’s 31 communal nature conservancies are proving a great success in every way: jobs created, community revenue, and most important, game numbers.

In a report assessing the performance of the conservancies almost a decade after they were created, the Namibian ministry of environment and tourism said wildlife numbers have increased dramatically in the northwestern regions, the Caprivi Strip, and the Nyae-Nyae area since conservancies were established.

The program was established by the government in 1998 to give rural communities more control over management of natural resources in their districts, especially wildlife. The first year, the conservances earned about N$600,000; last year, income totalled N$14.5 million in cash, wages paid, and meat from game hunted for trophies. They have created 700 full- and part-time jobs.

Revenue from wildlife is derived in a variety of ways, from allowing professional hunters to bring their clients and then charging trophy fees, to guiding and collecting hunting fees on communal land.

The deputy minister of environment and tourism, Leon Jooste, said communal conservancies are “true empowerment at the local level.

“We can never have enough support for a program like this,” he said. "Rural Namibians depend directly on natural resources for their livelihoods.”

Namibia's 31 conservancies involve about 100,000 people and collectively cover 7.8 million hectares – almost one-tenth of Namibia's total land mass and 26 per cent of its communal areas. The government is currently assessing applications for 15 more conservancies, and another 30 communities are preparing applications.

According to the report, poaching and “environmental degradation” have decreased dramatically in the communal conservancies since 1998. The Namibian Nature Foundation, which produced the report, said the results could be improved even further by giving communities control over larger species which are currently regulated by the government.