Poverty is one of the key issues developing countries are supposed to tackle according to the millennium development goals. It is believed that people, especially from Sub-Saharan Africa, earn less than a dollar a day. High unemployment is another factor. The majority of the youth in developing countries are unemployed because most economies in these countries cannot sustain the huge professional workforce.
This factor pushes people to engage in illegal activities to make ends meet. It is also alleged that most communities living or surrounding the areas that have natural resources such as oil, wildlife and the sea, live in extreme poverty. This is because such resources are owned by people who do not necessarily come from those areas.
This has always caused friction between the local communities living in and around these resources and other stakeholders. In places where wildlife resources are available and the communities are not involved in their management, several conflicts have arisen including human-wildlife conflicts, poaching and human encroachment into the protected areas.
The expansion of Agriculture has also caused competition for wildlife resources thus reducing the animal home range especially in the buffer zones and in dispersal areas like the migratory corridors. This raises so many questions. What should be done to include the community in the management of wildlife resources? How can communities be involved in order to avoid poaching?
Recently I was involved in a de-snaring exercise in Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary with the African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) and I was shocked that in one day, we got more than 50 snares inside the sanctuary. I was also informed that Sarova Salt Lick had carried out some de-snaring activities a few days earlier and found over 100 snares.
This infuriated the communities living around this place who see this as a source of livelihood and food and they burnt the place. Is it because of ignorance among the communities or has the government failed to protect wildlife from unscrupulous people who make bush meat a source of livelihood? Can the communities be taught the need to protect wildlife and possibly be provided with an alternative source of income away from bush meat?
Already wildlife populations have declined significantly in numbers and a majority of them will become endangered if no efforts will be made to contain this inhumane business to wildlife. What happens to the snares that are retrieved from these protected areas? Is there a way we can convert them into useful items of art that can be sold?
The answer is yes. ANAW has developed an initiative that is teaching the communities how to turn the snares into artefacts depicting different wildlife species. These artefacts are then sold to tourists and other visitors at a reasonable price. The notion behind this is to make them busy, but above all else, to provide them with an alternative source of income.
Then how can we make this project sustainable? The first thing is to get the community to understand and appreciate the value of wildlife in their lives. Let them start to see the benefits of conserving the wildlife around them through income opportunities this wildlife creates for them then later it will be very easy to involve them in managing these resources themselves.
Some of the community members can be employed in these protected areas as guards and some can be absorbed in the lodges and restaurants. This will enhance wildlife appreciation amongst the communities and thus enhance conservation. Other alternatives can be beekeeping, especially in the dry areas where agriculture is not practised, basketry, modelling among other income-generating activities. What other ideas might you have to make community wildlife protection sustainable? Share by commenting below.