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14.3: Linking Conservation to Socio-Economic Development

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    Long-term project viability is critically linked to purposeful economic development. Therefore, conservationists are increasingly looking for ways to link conservation to sustainable development, particularly in areas that are impoverished. Integrated conservation and development projects (ICDP) are one of the most popular mechanisms by which this could be accomplished. ICDPs combine conservation activities and local customs with aspects of economic development, including poverty reduction, job creation, health care, and food security. A major goal of ICDPs is for local people to become involved in conservation efforts and have access to opportunities and markets for which sustainable use of natural resources is more valuable than its destructive use. Zambia’s Community Markets for Conservation program (COMACO) illustrates on how this goal can be achieved (Lewis et al., 2011). Working around the Luangwa Valley’s national parks, COMACO helps food-insecure households and bushmeat hunters to meet their nutritional and income needs through sustainable production of honey, soy, Chama rice, groundnuts, and peanut butter (Figure 14.6). As additional incentive, COMACO connects participants to high-value markets where the villagers’ locally crafted products and sustainably cultivated produce can earn significantly higher prices than locally. Through this project, the area’s average household income has more than quadrupled, over 1,400 bushmeat hunters have adopted more sustainable lifestyles, and over 10,000 km2 of land have been dedicated to community-conserved areas where wildlife populations are now thriving.

    Figure 14.6 Many households face a stark choice between poaching/land clearing or food insecurity. As an alternative, COMACO helps rural households in Zambia meet their income and nutritional needs through several sustainable income streams. For example, groundnut farmers are provided opportunities to sell their produce at high-value markets, while groundnut shells (a waste product) are pressed into briquettes that can be used as a renewable fuel source. Photograph by COMACO, CC BY 4.0.

    Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) represents another approach in which local landowners and community groups can benefit economically from biodiversity and conservation. In previous years, government officials managed biodiversity both inside and outside protected areas through top-down mechanisms with little to no local input. Gaining little economic benefit from the wildlife on their lands, local communities had few incentives to participate in conservation efforts; in some cases, they even became hostile to conservation projects that impeded their activities (Section 13.6.2). To overcome this imbalance, centralised management systems are increasingly transitioning to CBNRM models that involve collaborative management of natural resources on private and communal lands. By empowering local communities and strengthening accountability, government officials and conservation organizations hope that CBNRM projects can simultaneously counterbalance pressures on local wildlife and contribute to economic development in ways that will have long-lasting positive impacts.

    Namibia hosts one of the most ambitious CBNRM projects to date. With seed money from external funders such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Namibian government granted community groups the opportunity to manage the wildlife on their own lands. To obtain these rights, interested community groups needed to form a management committee and determine the boundaries of its land, after which the government designated the group’s land as a “community conservancy”. Participating conservancies then worked with tourist operators—who employed members from the local communities—to provide opportunities for wildlife viewing and hunting (Naidoo et al., 2016), while also allowing tourists to learn about Namibia’s cultural heritage at traditional villages. Revenues from these joint ventures were used to build and maintain even more tourist facilities, and train and pay game guards (also hired from the communal group) who monitor wildlife and human activities on the conservancies. These endeavours have been extremely successful (NACSO, 2015): from the program’s inception in 1996 to 2014, Namibia’s terrestrial protected area coverage increased from 14% to 20%. Wildlife populations also rebounded: for example, Namibia’s elephant population increased from 7,500 to 20,000. Local communities have since reaped the benefits (Störmer et al., 2019). For example, in just 2014, Namibia’s CBNRM projects generated US $6 million in income and provided employment to 5,800 people (NACSO, 2015).

    Unfortunately, maintaining programs, even successful ones, remains challenging over the long term. Consequently, many previous ICDPs and CBNRM projects have only been partially successful. This includes Zimbabwe’s iconic Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) of the 1990s (Box 14.4), once considered a global model for conservation on unprotected lands. There are many reasons for these projects’ partial successes and failures, including funding limitations, project over-complexity, and political instabilities (Pooley et al., 2014). Although disappointing, these failures have offered valuable lessons that enabled conservation groups to adapt to the challenges of maintaining similar projects over the long term. Today, ICDPs and CBNRM are regarded as worthy of serious consideration, with successful programs across southern, East, West, and Central Africa (Roe et al., 2009). In addition to providing employment and food security, revenues from ICDPs and CBNRM projects have been used to build schools, clinics, and community centres; improve roads and sanitation; and establish crèches, community gardens, and nurseries (Arntzen et al., 2007; NACSO, 2015). In the end, ICDPs and CBNRM projects will be judged as successful when they can demonstrate that they can both protect wildlife and ensure improved livelihoods over the long term. To achieve these outcomes, a critical component of any ICDP or CBNRM project is the ongoing monitoring of biological, social, and economic factors to determine how effective the programs are in meeting their goals. Involving local people in these monitoring efforts may increase information sharing and help to determine how aware the people themselves are of the benefits and challenges each project presents (Braschler, 2009).

    Box 14.4 Confronting Human-Wildlife Conflict in Zimbabwe

    Steven Matema1,2

    1African Conservation Trust, Applied Ecology Unit,

    Durban, South Africa.

    2African Wildlife Economy Institute,

    Department of Animal Sciences,

    Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

    In Zimbabwe, several agro-pastoral communities live at the edge of protected areas. They thus come into conflict with wildlife species such as elephants, lions, chacma baboon (Papio ursinus, LC), leopard, spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta, LC), bushpig (Potamochoerus africana, LC), and common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus, LC) on a regular basis. Zimbabwean law does not provide compensation for crop and livestock losses due to wildlife damage; farmers, thus, develop negative attitudes towards wildlife. Fences and the use of unpalatable buffer crops have not been as successful in mitigating human-wildlife conflict as wildlife conservationists had envisioned (Parker and Osborne, 2006). Instead, lethal control has been the predominant method for managing human-wildlife conflict outside of protected areas, causing a rapid decline in native wildlife populations.

    Starting in 1975, the government began to experiment with “people-centred” human-wildlife conflict management strategies (Table 14.1) by adopting the principle that good environmental stewardship is contingent on conferring use and management rights to those directly affected by wildlife depredation. This was the basis for the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE). Under CAMPFIRE, smallholder agro-pastoralists, Rural District Councils (RDC, the land authorities in rural areas), and private safari operators co-manage wildlife outside protected areas and share income from controlled safari hunting and tourism (Murphree, 2009; Taylor, 2009). CAMPFIRE led to a dramatic increase in wildlife populations outside of Zimbabwe’s protected areas: the elephant population increased, and the buffalo population stabilised or declined only slightly outside protected areas (Taylor, 2009). Many of the project’s benefits have also been sustained, despite Zimbabwe’s political volatility over time (Balint and Mashinya, 2008). Yet, in socio-economical terms, CAMPFIRE has largely failed: powerful politicians and local traditional leaders captured benefits, and natural resource governance arrangements have been politicised because political party-affiliated RDC councillors automatically chair local CAMPFIRE committees following the amendment of the Rural District Councils Act in 2002 (Matema and Andersson, 2015). Ongoing research in the Zambezi Valley also showed that trophy quality has declined since the early 2000s: the horn size of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer, NT) and elephant declined respectively by 42% (down from 1.35 m to 0.79 m) and 40% (down from 1.47 m to 0.91 m) between 2006 and 2014 (Matema et al., unpublished litt.). This suggests a decline in the number of adult animals and/or indiscriminate hunting of wildlife, indicating that CAMPFIRE may have also failed to reach its ultimate conservation goals.

    Table 14.1 Policy and legislative changes for a people-centred approach to wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe, 1975–2005.


    Key event

    Outcomes for conservation and human-wildlife conflict


    Parks and Wildlife Act enacted

    Act gives authority to private landowners of white origin to exploit game for profit but leaves out black agro-pastoralists. Wildlife increases on private land. Human-wildlife conflict and negative attitudes toward wildlife by black agro-pastoralists persist.


    Wildlife Industries New Development for All (WINDFALL) program

    Culling of meat from parks and distribution to neighbouring communities as a strategy to mitigate human-wildlife conflict improves attitudes towards wildlife. Revenue sent to district councils with no local participation, decision making, or community ownership.


    Parks and Wildlife Act amended

    The amendment makes provision for authority to be granted to district councils to manage wildlife in rural areas on behalf of the communities.


    CAMPFIRE conceived by Department of Parks and Wildlife Management

    Target is: collective ownership with defined rights of access to natural resources, appropriate and legitimate institutions, technical and financial assistance.


    Authority granted to the first two Rural District Councils

    Implementation of CAMPFIRE. Local participation but devolution stops at Rural District Council level.


    Direct payment system introduced in CAMPFIRE

    Communities receive income due to them from the safari operator directly into a community bank account, bypassing the Rural District Councils (another level of elite capture of income).

    Sources: Murphree, 2009; Taylor, 2009.

    Two major lessons were learnt from the CAMPFIRE experience. First, if community-based conservation is to be effective as a human-wildlife conflict mitigation strategy, attention needs to be paid to local and national political dynamics. Second, devolution—the transfer of decision power to local levels—is important. The enactment of Zimbabwe’s Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act (2008), which makes provision for rural communities to form Community Share Ownership Trusts to exploit natural resources in their areas, provided a model that CAMPFIRE could have adopted to achieve complete devolution. However, the political elite has used the 2008 Act to demand shares in, or a complete take-over of, wildlife conservancies owned by ranchers of white origin. Communities living next to these conservancies have been excluded in these take-overs with the concomitant escalation of human-human conflict about wildlife (Nyahunzvi, 2014), and negative implications for local tolerance of wildlife species that kill livestock and damage crops. To curb elite capture of income, global compacts are needed, such as the recent ban of imports of wildlife trophies into the USA until there is evidence that local people are equitably sharing revenue from CAMPFIRE. The CAMPFIRE model can work and create greater tolerance for wildlife so long as it buffers local people from income losses. That means compensation in lieu of retaliation on species damaging crops and killing livestock.

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