A conservancy is a legally protected area belonging to a group of bona fide land occupiers who have pooled their resources to practise co-operative management based on a sustainable utilisation strategy to promote the conservation of natural resources including wildlife, where conservation means the management of human utilisation of organisms or ecosystems to ensure that such utilisation is of a sustainable nature. Conservation also includes the protection, maintenance, rehabilitation, restoration and enhancement of the populations of ecosystems. The ultimate objective is to reinstate the original biodiversity of the area and to share resources amongst all members of the conservancy.
The first conservancies in Namibia were commercial conservancies, now called freehold conservancies, as they are on privately owned land. The oldest conservancy on commercial farmland in Namibia is the Ngarangombe Conservancy, established in 1991. Today there are 23 freehold conservancies in Namibia, all voluntary associations that came into being through the concern and dedication of communities in the commercial farming areas. To streamline the conservancy movement in Namibia, an umbrella organisation, CANAM, was established in 1996 to co-ordinate and liaise conservancy efforts and to act as a lobby group in the interest of conservancies and conservation with the relevant ministries. In 2011 CANAM published a booklet, The Conservancy Association of Namibia: An Overview of Freehold Conservancies, the first compilation of data on freehold conservancies. The organisation represents 19 freehold conservancies in Namibia. (For further information on conservancies see page 71.)
A fast-expanding field of environmental management is communal conservancies, which are managed by local inhabitants, provide employment, and give locals the opportunity to benefit directly from their wildlife and other natural resources. There are currently a total of 64 registered communal conservancies in Namibia, adding another 17% to Namibia’s protected area network. The Namibia Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations (NACSO) is an association comprising 15 NGOs and UNAM. The purpose of NACSO is to provide quality services to rural communities seeking to manage and utilise their natural resources in a sustainable manner.