Payments for ecosystem services (PES) programmes are widely recognized as novel and innovative mechanisms that seek to promote the conservation of biodiversity while simultaneously improving human livelihoods. A number of national-level PES programmes have made significant contributions to advancing knowledge of these mechanisms. Namibia's community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) programme effectively operates as one such large-scale PES programme, making it one of the world's longest-standing schemes. In this review, Namibia's CBNRM scheme is compared and contrasted with the formal definition of a PES programme, some of the outcomes that the programme has produced illustrated by examples, and the challenges that must still be faced identified. Most of the requirements for a PES programme are present in Namibia's CBNRM programme, and when it does not meet these criteria, it is not exceptional. Notwithstanding the increases in wildlife populations and financial benefits that have been associated with the programme, a major challenge going forward revolves around diversifying the number of services produced. Namibia's CBNRM programme has much to contribute to the design of large-scale PES schemes.