Tag Archives: Karol Boudreaux

Property Rights Key to Conservation in Namibia

Today on Morning Edition, Christopher Joyce interviewed Namibian farmers to discuss their innovative conservation policy:

In the arid northwest, farmers and others who lived from the land were allowed to form “communal conservancies.” These are like village councils. They wield control over the wildlife within the conservancy boundaries, which are set by conservancy members and the central government. Conservancies then partner with tourist lodges and safari companies and take a cut of the income from tourists who come to see the giraffes, zebras, lions, rhinoceroses and other exotic animals. They operate campsites, too. And they collect thousands of dollars from trophy hunters who come to shoot lions and cheetahs and antelopes. A single lion can bring in up to $10,000.

This marks a shift from colonial and apartheid policies, where wild animals were essentially property of the ruling elite, and many species reached the brink of distinction extinction. By returning these property rights to the rural farmers who live with the animals, many species’ numbers have rebounded significantly.

The Namibian conservation system is not without challenges, though, with humans living alongside large game. One Joyce explains:

Elephants hunt water. To try to cut down on these human-animal conflicts, the conservancy is building them water wells, away from the farms. Guiseb says that’s good. The wildlife had to adapt to people, he says. Now people must learn to adapt to wildlife.

These results are in line with the Mercatus Center’s Karol Boudreaux’s findings in her field research in Namibia. Incentives matter, so providing a way for people to profit from the long-term health of wildlife rather than the short term benefits of poaching, improves species’ numbers.

Local Solutions to Preserve Biodiversity

A number of the world’s species are threatened and the UN has a new plan to save them. Like many international agreements this one is complex. It is a 10-year “strategic plan” that asks nearly 200 countries to meet 20 goals by 2030. To work, it will require both national and local implementation and funding. As my colleague Karol Boudreaux explains in a Reuters OpEd:

This is yet another highly complex and inefficient process to address a very important problem.

There is an alternative. It is called the “community-based natural resource management” or CBNRM model. Karol writes:

CBNRM is a bottom-up approach that gives local communities, who are the ones to bear the costs of preserving and conserving resources, legal rights to manage those resources and benefit from their use. In economic terms, CBNRM gives local people incentives to preserve rather than poach or overuse the forests, wildlife or fisheries they control.

In Namibia, where this strategy has been particularly successful, aerial surveys and road counts “show that populations of wildlife on conservancy land have rebounded and poaching is virtually non-existent.”

There are lessons here for state and local policy: local, bottom-up solutions are often far-more effective than complex, top-down decrees. Read Karol’s full piece here.