Community-based conservation and protected areas in Namibia: social-ecological linkages for biodiversity

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title Community-based conservation and protected areas in Namibia: social-ecological linkages for biodiversity
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
This study investigates the premise that national park designations and
management in Southern Africa decoupled indigenous communities from their local
ecosystems. The research explores ways and means to recouple communities and
national parks to promote biodiversity. The relationships are characterized between
Namibia's community-based resource management program (CBNRM), conservancies,
and protected areas system, with particular reference to the Ehi-rovipuka Conservancy
and Etosha National Park in northern Namibia. This is a sparsely populated, arid region,
marked by recurrent drought, a stunning wildlife spectacle, and ethnically diverse,
communal area villages. The nature and consequences of decoupled social-ecological
systems between community and national park are elucidated. lnstitutional linkages and
interplay are identified and described in and between community-based conservation
and national parks. Alternative approaches are suggested to the strict protection regimes
that typify IUCN Category ll National Parks.
A qualitative research approach is employed, featuring a case study and several
different and interrelated methods of data collection and analysis. Fieldwork in Namibia
was completed over a 6 month period. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with
51 different key informants representing a cross-section of NGOs, private enterprise,
international donors, Namibia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism, communities and
conservancies. Structured interviews were conducted in the case study community of
Otjokavare with 40 Herero villagers in the Otjiherero language, employing a community
interpreter and field assistant. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods were also
employed, including participant observation, memory mapping by 3 village elders, local
knowledge mapping by 6 village men and women, and a national park and conservation
awareness exercise by 34 Grade 7 pupils at the community primary school. Field
research findings were supplemented and triangulated with park and wildlife legislative
and policy analyses, as well as the extensive study of regional literature and data
Findings reveal an historic and systemic decoupling of social and ecological
linkages by national parks in Southern Africa. Colonial wildlife and protected areas
legislation, policies and management practice decoupled indigenous peoples from
places and resources they traditionally occupied and used in protected areas,
criminalizing their use of wildlife. The separate removals of Haillom Bushman and
Herero communities from Etosha National Park by central government are presented as
compelling examples. Herero elders in Otjokavare shared their memories in narratives
and maps, telling a story of forced relocation from and denied return to their ancestral
place in the park.
Namibia's CBNRM program and the creation of conservancies on communal
lands have recently devolved rights in wildlife to communal area villagers, fostering
institutions for community-based conservation. This has been an evolutionary process
spanning a 25 year period. lnstitutional interplay, multiple level linkages and partnerships
have proven to be important in this process. Dense social networks of national NGOs,
working in support of communal conservancies, and mediating international donor
funding, are especially noteworlhy. But, partnerships and supportive networks in
community-based conservation do not yet bridge the gap between communities and
national parks, which still emphasize a command-and-control approach to wildlife
Villagers of the Ehi-rovipuka Conservancy identify a range of prospective benefits
they would like to enjoy from living next to the Etosha National Park. These are then
portrayed as potential mechanisms in a model for recoupling social-ecological linkages
between communities and national parks. Key attributes of community and natural
resources are suggested for effective monitoring, as are incentives and sanctions, to
achieve biodiversity and sustainable development outcomes. Dynamic and mobile
community-conserved areas, integrated conservation corridors, integrated communityconserved
areas and state protected areas are envisioned withín a collaborative,
adaptive and wide area landscape approach to biodiversity conservation. These
represent alternatives to the strict protection regimes of IUCN Category ll National
Parks, emphasizing 'community' and community-based conservation, in contrast to
typologies of park and protected area.

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