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From: Our environment – Footsteps 20

How to become more aware of environmental issues and develop sustainable ways of living

A case study from Zambia

After many years of trying, through a very expensive law enforcement campaign, to deal with the poaching of wildlife, Zambia realised that no progress was being made. Poaching continued at the same rate – in some areas it even increased.

This situation led Zambia’s National Parks and Wildlife Service to carry out studies to find out the real causes of poaching. They discovered four important issues which influence the level of poaching. These issues may be of great interest to other groups working with conservation of wildlife and nature reserves.

1. Supplies of food

In villages with good supplies of food

– particularly meat and fish – there are fewer traditional hunters and less poaching.

2. Employment

There is a growing need for employment in rural areas. If there is no employment, villagers desperate for money will become involved in the sale of meat and other livestock products – whether or not this is legal. People’s needs for money must be seen as genuine and respected.

3. Traditional leadership

Traditionally the chiefs and headmen have made decisions about land use and ownership. The loss of these responsibilities to the government has led to poor protection of wildlife.

4. Increased earnings

The area must be able to make a good income from the local management of wildlife resources. Income should be used to increase local employment, develop alternative food supplies and encourage the local management of wildlife resources.

Time will be needed for these changes to take place. Local people may at first be unhappy to cooperate because of earlier harsh treatment from wildlife and government officials. Patience and persistence will be needed to build up relationships. The benefits of these ideas must reach most residents. Otherwise, villagers who feel they have ‘missed out’ may cause problems.

Once success has been achieved, good news spreads fast. This certainly happened in Zambia. Once some progammmes were successful, other communities wanted to join in.

Adapted from an article in Forest, Trees and People, Newsletter No 13, based on a report by D M Lewis, A Mwenya and G B Kawache: African Solutions to Wildlife Problems in Africa.

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