Making protected area concessions work for communities

Full Solution
Damaraland Camp, Namibia, successful joint venture between Wilderness Safaris and the Torra Conservancy
Dana Allen

The long-term partnership at Damaraland Camp between Wilderness Safaris (private sector; WS) and the Torra Conservancy (community) in Namibia illustrates that tangible benefits from such joint venture partnerships play an important role in development and poverty reduction, with intangible benefits improving social welfare, biodiversity conservation and local economic development.

Last update: 05 Oct 2020
Challenges addressed
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Unemployment / poverty
rural poverty, biodiversity conservation issues, human-wildlife conflict As a result of few alternative livelihoods and harsh climatic conditions there is a high level of poverty in the Damaraland area. This resulted in subsistence hunting of wildlife, as well as the killing of wildlife as a result of human-wildlife conflict and land use pressures. These challenges resulted in little support for biodiversity conservation and tourism in the area.
Scale of implementation
Hot desert
Access and benefit sharing
Legal & policy frameworks
Protected and conserved areas governance
Indigenous people
Local actors
East and South Africa
Summary of the process
Joint venture partnerships can, over time, assist with reducing poverty and improving livelihoods, as well as promoting conservation provided that there are equitable benefit-sharing processes in place and expectations are constantly monitored. Creating employment and using local suppliers assist with reducing poverty in the area and, therefore, work towards creating value from tourism and conservation for local stakeholders so that they engage in biodiversity conservation going forward. Understanding and measuring impacts on local communities living in and around protected areas is, therefore, important in terms of assessing tourism’s role and impact in these areas; ensuring that there is an association between benefits received and the associated tourism/conservation is critical to long-term sustainability as is a willingness to adapt and to use proven examples in other areas.
Building Blocks
Establishing community-private sector partnerships
Joint ventures (JV) are formal, contractual agreements with communities or community trusts. In this solution the community is involved in ownership of the tourism camp and there are, therefore, benefits and costs for both parties. Ownership brings with it a sense of pride and responsibility, but also a level of risk. The JV includes a shareholders' agreement; a lease agreement; a management agreement and a marketing agreement. Wilderness Safaris and the Torra Conservancy meet regularly to discuss the partnership, resolve issues, etc. Over and above financial benefits of the JV, Torra Conservancy members have gained: improved planning skills; insights and capacity for collaborative action; improved knowledge of their rights; broader vision for their community and Board committee members are empowered to make decisions and are involved in business management. JV benefits for Damaraland Camp/WS include: access to a new site, increase in market share, improved conservation and an overall fit with WS company philosophy of including communities in conservation.
Enabling factors
Stakeholders with capacity and skills to engage in tourism Strong institutions to provide support to local communities Enabling policy and legislation which allows communities control and encourages private sector investment A strong, united community organization. A small, cohesive community NGO support with skills training and capacity development. Desire of community members to engage, learn new skills, etc.
Lesson learned
Joint ventures can however be highly complex arrangements and this can make such arrangements vulnerable to dissolution and should be taken into consideration when developing ecotourism partnerships in remote, rural areas. Ensuring that communities benefit positively requires • ongoing communication between communities and the private sector • role clarification • increasing linkages • local employment • skills training and development, including the gradual transfer of management positions to community members The majority of communities have no prior tourism experience and it is, therefore, critical to ensure an understanding of tourism, business, marketing, sales, etc.
Creating employment and skills training and development
Employing local staff and investing in their skills training and development is an important way to include communities in PA tourism. Available jobs are, however, limited to operation size, hence using local suppliers is also important. Tourism employment provides direct benefits to local households and significantly impacts on overall household income and social welfare. The majority of camp staff (more than 75%) are from Torra Conservancy, with community members having been trained into management positions, e.g. Lena Florry. An online training system, Lobster Inc, has provided extensive skills training for community members. The building of the Camp required 20–30 unskilled, casual labourers, some of which went on to find permanent employment in the Camp and in other WS camps in Namibia. Employment has helped reduce out-migration by youth who might otherwise be drawn to cities in search of gainful employment. With each staff member at Damaraland Camp supporting an average of six people (Snyman, 2012a), the camp indirectly benefits around 139 members of Torra Conservancy, or 12% of the total population, excluding the outsourcing of services (such as road maintenance and laundry) that also impact on local community members.
Enabling factors
NGO support with skills training and capacity development. Strong internal private sector training capabilities and investment in good training programmes. Desire of community members to engage, learn new skills, etc. Government support through providing skills training and development for the tourism industry
Lesson learned
The majority of communities have no prior tourism experience and it is, therefore, critical to ensure an understanding of tourism, business, marketing, sales, etc. Providing community members with a thorough understanding of the tourism industry is also important to ensure awareness of the industry and the requirements for it in terms of skills, goods and services, etc. Some community members may not be interested in tourism in their area but they should still be made aware of it and have an understanding of its impact on their community: to ensure long-term support for tourism and conservation in the area.
Preferred use of local suppliers of goods and services
Wherever possible using local labour in construction and operation of tourism camps, as well as local suppliers of goods and services, allows for greater participation of community members in PA tourism and ensures a wider spread of benefits (multiplier effects). It is, however, essential to connect benefits from tourism and conservation to the protected area and the related tourism. Damaraland Camp used largely local labour in construction: this provided important income as well as skills training for local community members. The camp still uses local suppliers for various services, including laundry, security, cultural activities, etc. and future plans aim to include more local suppliers.
Enabling factors
On-going, regular communication to determine skills and services available in the local community A clear, transparent, equitable benefit-sharing scheme and selection of local suppliers. Training and skills development for community members so that they can engage in tourism. Providing an understanding of the needs and requirements of the tourism industry so that community members can provide the required goods and services in the correct quantity and quality.
Lesson learned
Never assume that people will connect benefits to the related tourism and conservation: the connection needs to be explicit and explained. There is often a disconnect between what the tourism industry needs and wants and what the community is providing – regular communication can assist with mitigating this, as can training and skills development. It is important to also make tourists aware of local community suppliers of goods and services from a marketing point of view, as it can enhance the tourism business and the visitor experience.
Managing expectations and benefit-sharing
It is important to ensure that the expectations of all stakeholders are managed before, during and after partnerships and that all stakeholders are aware of the benefits and that a clear, equitable, transparent benefit-sharing system is in place before benefits start being received. The solution recognises the realities of the importance of community support for conservation and tourism and aims to ensure that neighbouring communities value conservation areas and thus will ensure their long-term sustainability. It also endeavours to achieve finding ways to translate conservation and ecotourism successes into meaningful, real and visible socio-economic benefits for local communities. Various NGOs (IRDNC, WWF, etc.) and government (MET) were involved during the initial stages of negotiations to assist the Torra Conservancy with dealing with the private sector. Regular joint management committee meetings ensure that all stakeholders meet regularly to manage expectations, discuss the partnership and deal with any issues which may arise. There were/are still however instances when communication could be improved to manage expectations even more efficiently.
Enabling factors
On-going, regular communication A clear, transparent, equitable benefit-sharing scheme Assessing, managing and adjusting expectations over the life of the project to ensure that all stakeholders are included and understand the processes. Role clarity for all stakeholders to ensure an understanding of role, rights and responsibilities
Lesson learned
Those with little understanding of tourism need to be informed of the costs involved in starting a tourism project and the potentially long delay before returns are realized. It is critical to have a clear understanding of all stakeholders expectations from the beginning, with ongoing communication and engagement to manage these expectation as time progresses. Communities are not homogenous and are constantly evolving, with changing needs and wants, which need to be factored in to the JV agreement over time, through regular meetings, ongoing discussions, training and skills development.
Development of various community and social welfare projects
The majority of community development projects are funded either by cash, in-kind or specific donations from guests, NGOs, tourism camps or offices and various corporates. The private sector or an NGO can administer and distribute these donations as specified, or as required. Staff and transport used in the management and implementation of these projects is provided by Wilderness Safaris and partner NGOs. Wilderness Safaris facilitates, manages and administers guest donations towards various community development projects, including infrastructure development, support for schools, etc. Wilderness Safaris’ Children in the Wilderness (CITW) programme also provides environmental education to children in the Torra Conservancy, through weekly Eco-Clubs, as well as annual camps. For these camps, Damaraland Camp is closed to paying guests and CITW hosts rural children as guests in the camp on a fun-filled environmental education programme.
Enabling factors
• Ongoing engagement with communities to ascertain needs and to ensure buy-in and support of projects for sustainability. • Funds available for the development of projects. • Staff available to facilitate and manage projects.
Lesson learned
• Such interventions should never be simple hand-outs as this results in disempowerment. • Ongoing, regular engagement with and involvement of the community in the development and implementation of these projects is essential. • All such projects should result in capacity development, improvements in social welfare and/or poverty reduction. • Links must be clearly made to these projects and the related tourism and conservation.

A total, for community levies only, of over NAD 3.3 million (approx. USD 235 000) has been paid by Damaraland Camp to the Torra Conservancy between 1st March 2011 and 29th February 2016. In terms of employment, Damaraland Camp employs 30 individuals, 77% from the Torra Conservancy. The building of the Camp required 20–30 unskilled, casual labourers, some of which went on to find permanent employment in the Camp and in other WS camps in Namibia. Damaraland Camp guests visit nearby villages and the Camp makes use of laundry services, wood purchases, and road maintenance from local community members, further injecting an amount of NAD 123 816 (approx. USD 9524) into the local economy from 2011 to 2015. Staff costs, in terms of wages, meals, housing, uniform and training totalled more than NAD 8.89 million (USD 635 000) over the six year period (March 2011-Feb 2016). Extensive positive biodiversity impacts have also resulted from the partnership, including the recovery of a number of species, including Hartman’s mountain zebra, elephants and black rhino.

local communities (Torra Conservancy) and tourism concessionaire (Wilderness Safaris).
From year ten to fifteen of the partnership, the Torra Conservancy was given, per annum, 20% equity in Damaraland Camp until they owned 100% and chose to sell a portion back to Wilderness Safaris to form a joint venture equity partnership. Wilderness Safaris was then offered and purchased 60% of the Camp back from the Torra Conservancy and they are now operating as equity partners with the JV leasing the land from the conservancy for a fee. Bennie Roman, Torra Conservancy Chairman and Damaraland Camp Board of Director until 2014, says: “From the start we kept our relationship as good as possible. We have quarterly Joint Management committee meetings where we discuss matters on the ground and, present the conservancy and Camps reports and plan for the future. Conservation is our joint interest and tourism their (Wilderness) culture. We have learnt from each other over the years and we can now apply our knowledge.” The lodge has also been upgraded, with both WS and the conservancy investing capital for the upgrade. These upgrades were initially fully funded by WS but the conservancy used cash earned from the sale of a portion of the Camp back to WS to settle their portion of the shareholders contribution in terms of the upgrade. The reinvestment of ‘community capital’ into the project is one of the first instances in Namibia that did not involve donor funding or loans. In 2009, Wilderness Safaris and the Torra Conservancy entered into a formal equity JV and registered the company Damaraland Camp (Pty) Ltd. Roman: “The business became sustainable over the years and we decided to enter as a business partner. We now have 40% share in the business and still receive our monthly 10% turnover as bed levies. We feel we have ownership and can make decisions at director level.” In 2010, WS assisted the Conservancy to raise a bank loan of NAD 500 000. This money was used to build the Damaraland Adventurer Camp and is the first instance of a community raising their own funds for building purposes and helped to empower the community and provide experience in financial management and business skills. “Where there are issues or areas of concern in the partnership we discuss the topics and set joint tasks to solve any problems. Wilderness concerns are mostly over predator killings, especially Lions because it affects their market negatively but they also understand that we must keep a balance to sustain communal farming in the area.”, says Roman.
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Sue Snyman
Wilderness Safaris