Hunting: A Tool for Sustainable Rural Development
Pre-Congress Symposium of CIC and HCEFLCD in Marrakech, 21 April 2008
Over the course of recent decades, wild game stocks have continued to decline in most Sub-Saharan and Northwest African countries, in some cases disappearing altogether. The main causes of this decline are increased human pressure and loss of wildlife habitats, poaching, nonexistent or incorrect management, and over-hunting. Civil wars have also contributed to the destruction of wild game stocks and habitats. There are a number of national parks in which it has been possible to stop this trend – on the whole with significant international support – and in which it has been possible to conserve the flora and fauna as a heritage for humankind. However, despite the existence of protection strategies, most governments have not been able to nurture and conserve wild fauna as state property and in the same time to ensure the socio-economic development of their country.
Bans on hunting, which have been in force in some countries for decades, have not been able to halt this long-term trend. In fact, they have had the opposite effect: if the value is taken away from wild game, the local population no longer has any interest in protecting wild animals.
The opposing strategy, namely re-establishing the value of wild game, has been very successful in individual projects, for example in Benin and Tanzania, and in a number of countries, e.g. Namibia and South Africa. Today, it is once more possible to find wild game in regions where there has long been none. Species of wild game that were once on the verge of extinction can now be found in large numbers, suitable for hunting.
Where land owners, whether African communities or the owners of large estates, have been granted the right to use the wild game on their land in a sustainable manner, this has created the economic incentive to value and manage wild game in self-interest. In practice, economic incentives have proven more successful than national bans and moves to make wild game the property of the state.
Sustainable use can take many forms, for example photo tourism, hunting safaris, licensed hunting, leasing of hunting concessions, production of game, horns and skins. Only a combination of different kinds of use can bring about an optimal all-round result. Some well-meaning attempts have failed by concentrating solely on a small number of uses, e.g. meat production only. Trophy hunting by paying guests is particularly decisive for success. This brings the highest income while at the same time having the lowest removal rates, and – in comparison to other forms of tourism – also involves little investment and little land use.
As a result, using wild game for hunting has become an important tool for rural development and for fighting poverty in many regions, often where agriculture is very poor. In many places, it offers a successful and nature-friendly alternative to monocultures and land-damaging livestock farming, but it is also an alternative for under-financed and non-sustainable national parks.
In other countries there has been little progress beyond pilot projects because state bureaucrats are afraid of loosing both influence and legal and illegal sources of income. In some places, the strategy is still completely unknown and the dated concept of total protection still prevails despite the fact that this method has been shown empirically to be unsuccessful.
However, not every country in Africa that practices hunting tourism can be regarded as a positive example. Only if hunting adopts a truly sustainable form and only if a significant proportion of income from hunting is reinvested into conservation and wildlife protection, and is also used to the benefit of the landowners and the local population can hunting develop its positive ecological and economic effects.
With the involvement of scientists, practitioners working within the field and CIC members from around the world, the CIC/HCEFLCD Symposium aimed to stimulate and propagate dialogue throughout Africa, including between Francophone and Anglophone regions. It is important to emphasis the potential of sustainable hunting within the framework of rural development in Africa and particularly in Northwest Africa and to discuss how to extend this concept. The CIC and the HCEFLCD would like to accompany and support this process over the coming years and work with participating members to develop new ideas.
Dr Rolf D. Baldus, President of the Tropical Game Commission
Joachim A. Wadsack, President of the Working Group Agri-Environmental Measures