Nyae Nyae Conservancy Benefit Distribution: The Community Choose Cash
Benefit distribution in the Communal Conservancies comes in different form, but often in cash. There has been criticism of this, and of the Namibian’s communal conservancies in general, but the Nyae Nyae Conservancy has benefitted significantly from the distribution of cash. People in this day and age simply need cash to pay for certain goods and services, the people in the conservancy are no different.
Nyae Nyae Conservancy, the oldest, second largest and San run conservancy has been distributing cash benefit to their community since 2002. Initially there was a lot of debate about the merits of distributing cash, but in this community where very few members earn salaries, cash enables the community to buy essential basics such as pots, blankets and clothes as well as food staples.
As conservancy income has increased, additional benefits have been provided which now include:
- Seed for village gardens and fields
- Funeral benefit to help cover the cost of coffins
- Cash support to the Traditional Authority
- School uniforms for San children
This is alongside the creation of 27 full time employment positions amongst the San community, which is highly significant in an area with few employment opportunities, and even fewer for the San who often lack formal education.
The 27 full-time positions include a water team who maintain water infrastructure in the conservancies 38 villages where there is little visibility of Rural Water Supply. There are 18 Rangers who deter poaching and monitor wildlife activity as well as staff supporting Devil’s Claw harvesting, craft management and agriculture in order to develop community livelihoods.
In this community, one of the greatest benefits of the conservancy structure, that is not often mentioned, is the right of the community to make decisions for themselves. They decide how their income is spent, they decide who works for them and who sits on their governance structures.
The Chairperson of the conservancy, Xoan/’an /Ai!ae says; “The rights of the community to decide how it benefits from conservancy activities is really important and empowering for them. In an area where people have few options for jobs or livelihoods, making a choice on what type of benefits they receive has a significant impact on people’s lives.”
Along with the neighbouring conservancy in N≠a Jaqna Conservancy, the chairperson states: “We are also battling with illegal activity in the area on behalf of the community. We could do with more support from the Land Board and local Ministries in this, to ensure our community can keep benefitting from our land to which we have the rights.