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Modelling nature-based tourism’s impact on rural livelihoods and natural resources in Sikunga Conservancy, Namibia


  • Steven Gronau
  • Dr Etti Maria Winter
  • Prof Ulrike Grote


Nature-based tourism is growing globally and seen as an economic development path for many countries. Namibia links nature-based tourism into the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) concept; combining conservation, tourism and the improvement of livelihoods of rural communities that are yet not always complementary. They can also be conflicting. Through the CBNRM program local population is registered as a ‘conservancy’ (a territorial unit) which officially owns and manages collectively their natural resources, for finally encouraging and supporting tourism. Thus, communities have an incentive to manage their wildlife and natural resources sustainable to derive an economic benefit from tourism. Economic benefits from tourism can be mainly generated through enterprises, offering employments and cash incomes to rural communities. However, the degree of participation in tourism depends on the suitability with their existing livelihood system, involving trade-offs on the farm like households land and labor allocation, subsistence requirements and expenditures as well as the choice of different activities affected by seasonality. Finally, subject to different opportunity costs, leading to the question: (i) Is nature-based tourism a means to improve livelihoods of rural communities? Further, the number of tourists entering natural sites, like Zambezi, and spending cash in rural environments is influenced by regional attractiveness, which is conflicting with the increasing exploitation of natural resources from and within rural communities. This double sided demand for same resources also implies trade-offs, which are tried to be harmonized with the CBNRM program, thus arising the question: (ii) Does nature-based tourism have the potential to reduce overfishing? This paper aims to optimize these trade-offs constructing a mathematical programming model based in the Sikunga Conservancy. An optimization model was constructed for the Sikunga Conservancy to simulate a properly working CBNRM so that a communities social welfare criterion is maximized. Thus, the model can be viewed as a central planning model for optimal resource allocation aimed at maximizing social welfare for the Sikunga Conservancy community, while implying an adequately and collectively managed CBNRM. The mathematical programming model was constructed using General Algebraic Modelling System (GAMS) Software to reflect the livelihood system of the rural community and was run for the 197 sampled households (done in 2012). Two simulations are conducted: A reference and a CBNRM case. The reference case reproduces the livelihood system of the community in the Sikunga Conservancy, whereas the CBNRM case simulates an adequate managed CBNRM and analyzes the effects of nature-based tourism within the concept. In line with the goals of CBNRM to improve livelihoods as well as nutrition, nutritional requirements are increased in the simulation. CBNRM also aims at conserving wildlife and using natural resources sustainably. Due to Sikunga’s high dependence on fish resources for their livelihoods but also for angling tourism, the simulation puts the model under the umbrella of sustainable use of the fish resource. For this, a biological growth model was integrated that calculates a sustainable resource extraction by the conservancy. The simulation searches for reducing overfishing under consideration of household’s livelihood system as well as tourism as a possible means to foster sustainability (conservation management). It connects nature-based tourism with the CBNRM concept. Reference solution showed that Sikunga community’s livelihood activities are diversified and that nature-based tourism is an important source of income, with local fishing lodges offering employments within the conservancy over the whole year. Especially fish resources are of high regional importance for household’s subsistence consumption and cash income. However, fish stocks are being harvested over the rate of sustainable yield, contributing to the problem of overfishing in the Zambezi region. This in turn threats community’s livelihoods while heavily affecting the regional tourism sector, mainly consisting of recreational fishing (sport angling). Additionally, it was found that the community lacks for an adequate nutrition. Issues with continued malnourishment are likely to hinder development for the community including the success of CBNRM and their partnership with tourism operators, thus need to be considered for a potential well-working concept. Consequently a CBNRM case was run, that accounted for a proper management. The simulation focused on the conservation of fish resources which are fundamental for regions livelihoods as well as tourism number, demand and potential sector growth. Models solution showed that nature-based tourism is a means to improve livelihoods of rural communities. A marginal social welfare loss of the Sikunga community, due to a sustainable fish resource use implication, were stated to be harmonized with the potential conservancy benefits from nature-based tourism. Therefore the community needs to conserve their natural resources, especially fish, for being an attractive site for tourism, thus fostering further tourism numbers and related establishments, which are basically for conservancy wide benefit. However, this demands an appropriate CBNRM. Additionally, nutritional levels within the community increase in the solution what also confronts the slight decrease in social welfare. Further, the model showed that if CBNRM is well-managed, nature-based tourism have the potential to reduce overfishing. Nature-based tourism, embedded in a sustainable fish resource use, heavily decreases catch numbers of rural communities within conservancies. It offers rural households an alternative livelihood strategy in tourism, which can take care of the people who have to reduce their fishing activity.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Gronau & Dr Etti Maria Winter & Prof Ulrike Grote, 2016. "Modelling nature-based tourism’s impact on rural livelihoods and natural resources in Sikunga Conservancy, Namibia," EcoMod2016 9418, EcoMod.
  • Handle: RePEc:ekd:009007:9418

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Namibia; Optimization models; Developing countries;

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