SADC leaders want communities to benefit from wildlife

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SADC leaders want communities to benefit from wildlife

Victoria Falls – SADC leaders who attended the African Union and United Nations Wildlife Economy Summit in this Zimbabwe resort town this week are pushing for communities living with wild animals to benefit from revenue generated from the natural resource to reduce human-wildlife conflict.

This came out during discussions pitting Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who officially opened the summit, as well as Presidents Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), Edgar Lungu (Zambia) and Hage Geingob (Namibia), who is also the SADC Chairperson.

Mnangagwa said Southern Africa had kept true to the Godly promise of keeping wildlife in a sustainable manner.

“These animal products are valuable, let us protect and promote them. To succeed, we need to have a model of management which is acceptable to us and other participants at CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species),” he said.

Zimbabwe, he said, had more than 84 000 elephants, a situation leading to human-wildlife conflict.

He said it was important that there was no uniform policy on conservation as this would affect countries differently.

“Let us not have a one size fits all for every situation. Let us adjust,” he said.

Zambian leader President Lungu expressed concern that a few elites were benefiting from wildlife.

“Poaching is rampant because the ordinary communities are not benefiting from wildlife; hence there is little appreciation of the value of wildlife. We need a mechanism to protect our people because it’s our responsibility,” he said.

President Masisi said there was need to maximise value and benefits for the communities.

“We are compelled by a deep belief system that people must benefit so they are defenders and nurturers of that economy as we grow the cake,” he said.

He said this required commitment from all stakeholders.

“Governments are at a collision course with communities because of human-wildlife conflict.

“We are committed to go to full throttle and we will continue to renew this partnership.

“Community rights with regard to wildlife economies must form a new paradigm. We need to take Kaza (Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area) to another level and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

Namibia President Geingob said there was need for people to live and co-exist with wildlife.

He called for governments and all stakeholders to be involved.

“The new Africa we are seeing here is a third wave of Africa leadership. The first wave was that of extraordinary nationalists who liberated the continent from colonialism. The second was the cold war whose era was characterised by coups.

“People are living with animals; they must co-exist, but not fight. We want people involved and Presidents to be involved. In Namibia, human-wildlife conflict is high and people want compensation.

“We should get proceeds from ivory and use the money to compensate people and repair their houses and crops,” President Geingob said.

Meanwhile, Botswana is expected to engage Angola on how best the two southern African nations can conserve and manage the growing number of the elephant population in their countries, writes Mpho Tebele from Gaborone.

This was revealed by Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi when addressing reporters in Gaborone upon his arrival from the wildlife summit held neighbouring Zimbabwe early this week.

Masisi told reporters that he will lead a delegation soon to Angola in a bid to seek ways to reduce the growing elephant herds.

 Botswana has the largest elephant population on the continent which currently stands at about 130,000. This has resulted in human-animal conflict and impacted negatively on diversity.

Masisi said Botswana and Angola intended to collaborate on improving wildlife conservation efforts and attract elephants back in Angola from Botswana. He said as part of efforts to reduce the elephant population in Botswana, he would soon be travelling to Angola to engage his counterpart, President João Lourenço, on the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA).

“We are seeking ways and means of reducing our elephant population due to the growing conflict between people and wildlife,” said Masisi.

Botswana and Angolan authorities are expected to discuss, among others, the opening up of elephant migration routes between the two countries, which both members of KAZA. Other KAZA members are Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. KAZA is a transfrontier national part straddling the five countries and is an important area for many migratory species, especially elephants.

Expectations are that Botswana would request Angola to de-mine the southern part of the neighbouring country so that elephants can roam freely. Reports indicate that a considerable number of elephants and other wildlife were forced to flee from Angola to Botswana during the country’s civil war.

But observers are of the view that it is time to relocate elephants some to Angola because peace has now returned to that country. Botswana lifted the hunting ban that was put in place in 2014 and announced plans to implement controlled hunting. Masisi believes that the move would not reduce the number of elephants and their relocation back to Angola could be a panacea.

Masisi said Botswana has resolved to commit itself to ensuring that more citizens have a major stake and play a major role in wildlife economy. Masisi said that Botswana has resolved to place people at the centre of the wildlife economy. 

“We will also double our efforts in inclusion through the resuscitation of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM). We had lapsed in our assurances to communities in the wildlife economy.  We will continuously engage our communities and that will be guided by our principle of consultation,” he said.

He said it was important for government systems to assure the rights of all communities sharing habitat with wildlife. 

Communities are instrumental in shaping policies and conversations around beneficiation in the wildlife and natural resources centre, said Masisi.

 – The Herald/Own Correspondent.

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