The aim of this study is to analyse the nature, diversity, and dynamics of non-timber forest products (NTFP) governance that have shaped the use, conservation and development of indigenous natural products in Namibia.
NTFP play varied roles in rural communities; as a subsistence product, safety net, or product for income generation. At the end of the 20th Century, optimism existed that these products could contribute towards the combined goals of biodiversity conservation and development. In Namibia, increased attention has been given to sustainable commercialisation of indigenous natural products (INPs). The demand for indigenous natural products has increased recently in Namibia. For example, export of devil’s claw (Harpagophytum species) from Namibia increased from 96 tonnes in 1992 to 510 tonnes in 2013. Similarly, the demand for Hoodia species in Namibia has increased, especially after the South Africa based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) — embarked on clinical trials and other scientific research development on the species.
The increasing commercial demand for different INPs from Namibia have raised concerns on resource over-exploitation and the limited contribution these products have to community livelihood. Thus, the institutions for promoting INP production in Namibia have multiple objectives including: income generation, poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation and diversification of agricultural systems and their adaptation to climatic change. These diverse objectives and policy issues characterise the diversity of interests, which the multi-stakeholders have on INPs, requiring a complex institutional framework through which the production and marketing of INPs can be coordinated. Through the Indigenous Plant Task Team (IPTT), the government of Namibia has been exploring different development models for sustainable production and commercialisation of INPs. The dynamics within this complexity, which has been based on pilot projects and implementation of policies by stakeholders in cross-cutting sectors have not been systematically analysed to understand its evolutionary nature, performance and implications on policy outcomes. Such an analysis can contribute to a better understanding of the complex nature of the institutional arrangements for NTFP development and the different stakeholder interactions involved.