Over the past three days a series of wide-ranging conversations with Garth Owen-Smith provided indispensable insight into the development of wildlife conservation in Kunene and the formation of the communal conservancies. Mr. Owen-Smith has been instrumental in the formation of Namibia’s communal conservancy system and has dedicated his life to ensuring that local people are represented and respected as the owners of wildlife inhabiting their communal lands. Mr. Owen-Smith, along with his partner, anthropologist Margie Jacobsohn, founded Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), an organization that continues to work with communal conservancies in Namibia to ensure that they are viable representatives of local interest when it intersects with environmental management.
Himself a long-time resident of Kunene, Owen-Smith repeatedly emphasized the importance of extending ownership to conservancy residents, taking the time to build relationships so that challenges can be met together, and providing the necessary support for conservancies and conservancy residents while allowing them to set the agenda. Mr. Owen-Smith is an unrivaled fount of information about the practical implementation of community-based natural resource management and has been internationally recognized for his pioneering work. He at times voiced positions of optimism and concern about CBNRM as a means of unifying wildlife conservation and rural development in the future. Owen-Smith’s memoir, An Arid Eden: A Personal Account of Conservation in the Kaokoveld, is enthusiastically recommended for anyone who wishes to gain a more complete understanding of the challenges facing community conservation and the history behind CBNRM’s current place in Namibia.
IRDNC is supporting this research.