WP1. Historicising Socio-ecological Policy in Etosha-Kunene

Our research opens with the collation of texts, literature review and discourse analysis of published documents regarding 'Etosha-Kunene' stretching back to the 1700s.

Our underlying literature review, organised as a timeline, is viewable at the links below and can be searched by keywords. This document is updated as we read and review additional sources. Our full bibliography and set of abbreviations are available at these links.

1. pre-colonial to 1884

2. 1884 – 1907

= colonial reorganisation prior to gazetting of ‘Game Reserve no. 2’

3. 1907 – 1958

= Game Reserve no. 2 / Etosha Game Reserve & ‘Kaokoveld’ Native Reserves, prior to move of western boundaries to Ugab and Hoanib Rivers

4. 1958 – 1970

= Etosha Game Reserve to Atlantic Ocean in west, prior to ‘Damaraland’ & ‘Kaokoland’ homelands created; Etosha National Park (ENP) reduced in size


5. 1971 – 1997

= fenced and reduced size Etosha National Park; communal area residents alienated from wildlife


6. 1998 – present

= CBNRM / communal area conservancies & ENP


This text-based research comprises detailed study and compilation of written sources regarding the changing boundaries, environmental and species protection policies (see Botha 2005), institutional structures, and narratives shaping the changing Etosha-Kunene conservation territories. We hope to combine this review with semi-structured interviews with key actors involved in conservation policy design and implementation. Our emphasis here will be on gaining deeper understanding of perspectives on the past held by such actors, as well as relationships between these perspectives and diagnosis of both present priorities and desirable futures.

            Critical discourse analysis (Johnstone 2008; Fairclough 2010) will assist with identifying key themes, frames and shifts in actors, perspectives and policies through time (Sullivan & Hannis 2015). Our aim is to offer a more complete and integrated understanding of the changing political contexts and concerns regarding ‘nature' through time.

Proposed milestones, outputs and personnel: this work package will be conducted by the full academic team and will be an iterative process throughout the duration of the project. Primary outputs:

  1. at least one peer reviewed journal article analysing the complex changes in conservation focus and organisations in 'Etosha-Kunene' from its establishment as ‘Game Reserve no. 2’ to the present coalescence of diverse conservation units in the area – target Journal of Political Ecology;

  2. a publicly accessible online chronology (see above) of writing about the region, updated throughout the course of the project;

  3. an accessible locally printed policy-oriented publication detailing the chronology and analysis pursued in this WP, developed and shared with stakeholders and policy actors (for example, through Namibia's Nature Conservation Board, of which Lendelvo is a member), as part of our proposed public engagement strategy detailed in WP6.

New Completed Outputs

The first months of our project have been dominated by COVID-19 and associated lockdown restrictions and travel bans. We responded by publishing a telephone survey of people in five communal-area conservancies to find out what their biggest challenges were due to COVID-19, focusing in particular on intersections between COVID19 travel restrictions, tourism/trophy-hunting incomes and 'community-based conservation'. The peer-reviewed paper has now been published by the Namibian Journal of Environment:

Lendelvo, S., Mechtilde, P. and Sullivan, S. 2020
A Perfect Storm? COVID-19 and community-based conservation in Namibia. Namibian Journal of Environment 4(B): 1-15

Abstract: We report on a rapid survey of five communal-area conservancies in Namibia to understand initial impacts on community-based conservation of national and international policies for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme has been growing for over 30 years, with high economic reliance on tourism and conservation hunting. We review the interrelationships between COVID-19, CBNRM, tourism and hunting, and discuss our findings under eight interlocking themes: 1) disruption to management and regular operational processes of conservancies, including 2) effects on conservancy wildlife patrolling and monitoring; 3) losses of revenue and cash flow in conservancy business operations; 4) impacts on Joint-Venture Partnerships; 5) impacts on employment opportunities and local livelihoods; 6) effects on community development projects and social benefits, including 7) disruption to funded projects and programmes; and 8) lack of technical capacity regarding communication technologies and equipment. In our conclusion we discuss tensions between an assumption that normal business can or will be resumed, and calls for the COVID-19 pandemic to create an opportunity for global choices away from ‘business-as-normal’. It is too early to tell what mix of these perspectives will unfold. What is clear is that communal-area conservancies must derive benefits from conservation activities in their areas that are commensurate with their role as key actors in the conservation of Namibia’s valuable wildlife and landscapes.

Keywords: communal-area conservancies, Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), conservation hunting, COVID-19 pandemic, Namibia, rural livelihoods, tourism, wildlife

A blog summarising our article has also been published by the Conservation Namibia blog of the Namibian Chamber of Environment, see Communal Conservancies Cry for Help to Survive Coronavirus Perfect Storm.




Botha, C. 2005 People and the environment in colonial Namibia. South African Historical Journal 52: 170-190.
Fairclough, N. 2010 Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London: Routledge.
Johnstone, B. 2018 Discourse analysis, 3rd Edn. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Sullivan, S. & Hannis, M. 2015 Nets and frames, losses and gains: value struggles in engagements with biodiversity offsetting policy in England. Ecosystem Services 15: 162-173.

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​© 2020 Etosha-Kunene Histories

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