The UNDP supported GEF financed project “Strengthening the Protected Area Network” (SPAN; from 2005-2012) used a number of strategies to secure sustainable financing for Namibia’s protected areas (PAs). The project undertook and successfully used a comprehensive economic analysis of the PA system to make the business case for increased investment in PAs. In addition it developed a concession management system compatible with the Government of the Republic of Namibia’s conservation and development objectives, significantly increasing the budget available for park management. This projecthas formed part of phased support to the government through three successive UNDP supported GEF financed projects designed to strengthen and expand the country’s PA system in a strategic manner. The project worked through the following partners, in addition to GEF and UNDP: the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and Ministry of Finance of the Government of Namibia, Millennium Challenge Cooperation, German Government (KfW Bankengruppe) and Conservation International.
Namibia’s dryland ecosystems harbour globally significant biodiversity. In 2005, Namibia had institutionalised a system for managing this biodiversity through three mechanisms: State PAs, communal conservancies and private reserves. However, PA management systems were poorly developed and particularly hindered by a lack of funds for, and investment in, PA management. Insufficient financial resources limit PAs’ management effectiveness, threatening the ecosystem services and biodiversity that the PAs seek to protect. SPAN aimed to establish sustainable financing mechanisms to address this. Before the project, the annual budget of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) for park management was approximately US$ 7 million. This budget was considered to be a fraction of the funds necessary to adequately manage the PA system—which now accounts for 17% of the national land surface area (823,680 km²). In addition, park entrance fees were paid into the Government Treasury, with no earmarking of revenues reinvested in PA management. This situation gave park managers little motivation to increase and diversify revenue from PAs.
Valuation studies of protected areas. A comprehensive economic analysis of the PA system was funded by the project as a preparatory activity in 2004. The results indicated that the PA system contributed up to 6% of the GDP through park-based tourism—without including other ecosystem services values—and that the economic rate of return on the government investment in the PA system over 20 years was as much as 23%. These results were vital for the government to triple the budget allocation for park management within the first four years of project implementation.
Lobbying and making the business case for increased investment in PAs. The MET and project used the valuation study to effectively lobby for increased government budget allocation for PA management, through publication of the report, production of a lobbying booklet, and integration of the study’s data and information into the government’s budgeting and budget motivation processes. The MET also successfully advocated for official earmarking of 25% of park entrance fees for park management support with the Game Products Trust Fund Board.
Development and implementation of a concession policy, concession unit and related/supporting regulations. The project supported the institutionalization and implementation of a concession policy (the National Policy on Tourism and Wildlife Concessions on State Land) which has revamped the process of awarding of hunting and tourism concessions resulting in a diversified customer base and substantially increased revenues. In addition, the policy directly contributes the government’s efforts for poverty reduction through awarding concession rights to rural communities to ensure local benefits from PA tourism. This empowered the communities to be a main player in PA tourism product development and management, deriving sustainable benefits. A concession unit was established in MET to manage the programme and an inter-agency concession committee was established to oversee concession applications.
Increasing capacity for PA and concession planning and management. The project built the institutional and individual capacity of MET to effectively plan and manage the PA system and sites, and to negotiate and manage concessions within protected areas and provided training to enhance park managers’ skills in park management.
Business planning. Park business plans were developed for six national parks, enabling the park managers to define costs and identify and execute ways to meet those costs. All PAs had been set up as cost centres with devolved responsibility for their operational budgets resulting in improved efficiency in areas such as procurement and financial management.
Strategic PA Expansion. Based on the conservation assessment that was conducted as a preparatory activity for the project, the project directly contributed to major expansion of the PA system from 13.8% to 17% of the country’s land surface. This allowed some of the heavily underrepresented biomes (e.g. succulent Karoo biome) to be integrated in the national PA system.
An accurate estimate of PA management costs, the financial and economic benefits of PAs and the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services were key to making a strong case for investment in sustainable financing and retaining PA revenues for PA management. In particular, showing the PA system’s direct contribution to poverty alleviation and other national development objectives is critical to making the case for retaining PA revenues for PA management. The fact that the initial economic analysis was conducted during the project preparatory phase allowed ample time for the project to use the outcome for producing the results.
With greater awareness of the PA system’s significant economic contribution and business opportunities, however, political interests and pressures also increased. Therefore, there is a need for ensuring that the essential elements of biodiversity and ecological processes are safeguarded from these strong economic interests. The park management and Concession Unit must possess a strong technical capacity to develop and monitor concessions that yield both environmental and economic benefits.
The equitable distribution of benefits from PAs and their contribution to poverty alleviation must be ensured. For this, a robust and transparent procedure for awarding concession rights is essential. To support this, the MET in consultation with stakeholders developed a standard template for agreements to ensure equitable sharing of costs and benefits, transfer of skills, management responsibility, and ownership of rights and assets within agreed timeframes.
Budget for PA management is significantly increased. Using the valuation study results, it is estimated that MET has increased the annual budget for park management and development by 310% since the project began, well exceeding the project’s target. The Ministry of Finance approved retention of 25% of the park entrance revenue through the Game Products Trust Fund. Those funds are now reinvested in park and wildlife management through this fund, providing up to US$ 2 million additional sustainable financing per annum.
Increased capacity to secure sustainable financing and concession system implemented. According to the project’s Terminal Evaluation, revenues realized from these revamped concessioning processes were in the region of N$15 million as opposed to the N$ .5 million at the project’s close compared to what was being realized before the project. Fifteen concessions were awarded in 2009 alone while tourism development plans have been developed for the new Sperrgebiet National Park, the proposed Kunene Peoples Park and the Bwabwata-Mudumu-Mamili Complex. The SPAN project was fully embedded within the structures of MET where the Project Management Unit was co-located with the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management. Some of the outputs from the project implementation were therefore directly integrated into the reporting and management systems of the Ministry thereby increasing the likelihood of institutional sustainability. For example, the Concession Unit, financial management training and procurement management were all well integrated into MET management systems as a result.