Prof. Joseph Mbaiwa (Professor of Tourism, Director, Okavango Research Institute, Botswana) started his talk by outlining the various wildlife challenges that communities are facing. Wildlife numbers are on the decline, which includes a number of large mammal and bird species. Human wildlife conflict (crop damage by elephants, livestock predation), poaching, uncontrolled bush fires, the militarisation of conservation, growing poverty and the North/South divide are all issues that must be addressed.
A number of options were presented as solutions to these challenges, the first of which was the use of wildlife based tourism. This can be used as a tool for both promoting conservation and bringing jobs and economic growth; if this is to be case, tourism must be carefully aligned with conservation laws. Community based natural resource management (CBNRM) should also be utilized, which aims to create a framework for advancing and combining community and conservation objectives. CBNRM has worked well in Namibia and has been based on three pillars: natural resource management, institutional development and governance at community level. This model has been applied in other areas; Uganda and gorillas, India and tigers, etc. Not only is CBNRM a way to further the aims of conservation, but areas that have focused on community based projects, and brought in tourism as a result, have seen improvements to infrastructure as well. Prof. Mbaiwa concluded by urging those involved in the North-South debate to reconcile their differences and suggested that communities and indigenous people should lead the way for conservation in Africa.
Speakers for the panel discussions then gave their opening statements; Angus Middleton spoke of his experiences with the conservation of black rhino, and the issues they have had with poaching. Ishmael Chahukura (CAMPFIRE program, Zimbabwe) outlined the use of CBNRM in Zimbabwe, and Daniel Mwinga (Chairperson, Slambala Conservancy, Namibia) shared his knowledge working as a professional hunting guide.
What is the feeling about conservation on rural perspective ?
Following this, panelists moved on to answer several question, starting with the subject of conservation and the rural perspective. Before the introduction of conservancies, poaching was a common practice. Conservancies gave people a reason to care about wildlife, and in return wildlife numbers rose drastically. Zebra, wild dogs and even ostriches returned to the conservancy of Slambala; few were seen before the creation of the conservancy. The importance of trophy hunting was also stressed – the money derived from wildlife use goes directly into infrastructural investment like waterholes. Additionally, hunting supports communities through capital projects, wildlife management, education, etc. People living in rural areas benefit from tourism as well, and is a main source of revenue in Kenya.
Speakers were then asked for their thoughts on decisions being made by foreign nations on Africa. It was suggested that these approaches cannot work for conservation in Africa – if you take the rights out of communities, there is no way in which they can support conservation, and their perception towards conservation becomes negative. There is a need to work together and look for approaches that integrate views. Furthermore, it was stated that the global north has the resources to train the ecologists and rangers on conservation work, and that conservation is a stakeholder approach where we work together.
The topic of human wildlife conflict and methods that conservancies are using to help HWC was also brought up. Some examples of mitigation measures include wildlife proof crops against lions and fencing for crops, but limited resources is mentioned as major limitation. Kenya is known to use predator proof areas, and a scheme that provides funding for livestock to lost wildlife. In Botswana, since hunting was banned in 2014, the compensation paid to local communities for HWC increased due to the movement of animals into populated areas.