Dependency as two-way traffic: community-based organisations and non-governmental organisations in the Namibian CBNRM programme

Stamm, Carolin Hanna (2017) Dependency as two-way traffic: community-based organisations and non-governmental organisations in the Namibian CBNRM programme. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


The Namibian community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) programme has been hailed as the leading wildlife conservation initiative on the African continent. Based on the dual objective of achieving both rural development and nature conservation on communal land, CBNRM has become the principal model for large-scale Western donor-funding for biodiversity conservation in sub-Saharan Africa. Forming local community-based organisations (CBOs) is the essential precondition for rural residents to receive rights over their natural resources. Since the late 1990s, an extensive network of international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has successfully secured substantial funding to support local CBOs in the endeavour to protect and benefit from wildlife. Namibia’s national CBNRM policy explicitly recognises NGOs as key support organisations tasked to help create and strengthen CBOs, build their management capacity and link them to funding sources. Furthermore, they are the principal facilitators of joint-venture tourism partnerships between CBOs and private investors. Tourism, the Holy Grail of Namibian CBNRM, generates approximately 70% of CBO income and as such constitutes a principal livelihood strategy for communal area residents.
This thesis explores the implications of substantial, ongoing NGO support to CBO development. Grounded in a critical realist research paradigm, empirical data collection has been driven by the quest to uncover and explain the underlying mechanisms that enable and/or constrain the establishment of independent CBOs. This research was motivated by the desire to unpack the Namibian CBNRM success story. It is argued that the often prescribed dichotomy of powerful outsider vs. compliant development receiver, fails to recognise that at local level development intervention more closely resembles ongoing development interaction. A more refined understanding of how NGO support is consumed and negotiated by CBOs is important to further scrutinise the effectiveness of exogenous development.
Adopting an overall inductive approach, a case study methodology was chosen to investigate the CBO-NGO exchange relationship. Located in regional tourism hotspots in Kunene and Zambezi Region, two CBOs that have received massive—yet differently structured—NGO support since their inception were purposefully chosen. During two three-month fieldwork periods in 2013 and 2014, multiple sources of qualitative data were collected.
The findings indicate that NGO support is highly unequal; systematic inclusion and exclusion of CBOs is mostly determined by their economic potential originating from the occurrence of wildlife. The key exchange modality between CBOs and NGOs is the continuous provision of training, where the latter impart essential knowledge on the former. While NGOs have effectively monopolised the CBNRM service provision, CBOs have simultaneously
devised individual strategies to secure maximum future support. By conceptualising their on-going interaction as a client-provider relationship, the reciprocity of CBO-NGO dependency becomes evident. The heavy promotion of joint-venture tourism partnerships in particular, shows that NGOs rely on success stories to promote the Namibian CBNRM programme, and thus continue to shield “their” CBOs from the associated risks. A key implication of the research findings is that, paradoxically, continued service provision has enabled the development of financially self-sufficient CBOs, while at the same time it has likely encouraged prolonged self-insufficiency by CBOs which have matured into demanding, experienced consumers of rural development projects.

Keywords:NGOs, Namibia, CBNRM, Community-based organisations
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N120 International Business studies
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
ID Code:29631
Deposited On:16 Nov 2017 10:42

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