Over 30,000 people live in areas bordering Lower Zambezi National Park
In places like Zambia, where humans and wildlife coexist and fend for space and natural resources on a daily basis, providing support to the community forms a key component of wildlife protection. This is especially true for the areas surrounding the Lower Zambezi National Park. The Chiawa Game Management Area is home to a growing human population that relies almost entirely on subsistence crops. Yet the area is also home to a healthy elephant and hippo population – both frequently pass through villages and fields where they either trample or ‘raid’ crops and granary stores – resulting in conflict and resentment from the local community. CLZ’s community support programme is multi-faceted – from human-wildlife conflict patrols (funded by International Elephant Fund , Tusk Trust and African Wildlife Foundation), to a chilli-growing programme to elephant-behaviour workshops.
In an effort to address human-wildlife-conflict (HWC) in the Game Management Areas surrounding the park, CLZ has partnered with Awely – an organisation that aims to ensure a peaceful coexistence between wildlife and people in various Asian and African countries through its ‘Red Cap’ programme. The CLZ-Awely partnership focuses on chilli farming and fences, documenting HWC incidents, building elephant-safe granary stores, and since the end of 2015, trialing alternative crops.
CLZ supports human wildlife conflict patrols in the farming season
Human Wildlife Conflict Patrols
Funded by the International Elephant Foundation, CLZ set up its first HWC patrols in January 2014. During the peak HWC season when the community are harvesting their crops, CLZ deploys a Village Scout team in the community full time to be present within the Chiawa GMA and respond to any HWC incidents. Providing a trained and armed response unit to community reports of HWC incidents, assisting in property and personal protection and trained in elephant behaviour, the VS teams promote more positive attitudes towards living safely with elephants and hippos without the need for fatal measures.
For the past few years, CLZ and Awely have been assisting and educating farmers on the use of chilli-fences as a mitigation method to deter elephants from their fields. Farmers are also encouraged to grow chilli as a ‘cash’ crop that elephants will have no desire to eat and which CLZ sells on behalf of the farmer to a local condiments producer. Alternatively, farmers can grow the chilies around their fields and then use the chillies for elephant conflict mitigation. The chilli programme is supported through an annual workshop that CLZ conducts with selected farmers where they learn through theory and practice on the use of chillies to protect fields.
CLZ has set up 33 felumbus in the community
CLZ’s community programme supports the construction of elephant safe granary stores (felumbus) in the Chiawa GMA. The felumbus are very popular in the Chiawa GMA and provide safe storage of maize for community members. Funding for these has come from Awely and through a ‘sponsor-a-felumbu’ scheme that was kindly run by Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro Bush Camp, offering their guests the opportunity to sponsor their own felumbu (each felumbu is numbered and allocated to a donor). Awely also funds an assistant to Stephen Kalio to help him with the construction of the granary stores.
The hippo fence protects 20 farmers from crop-damaging by hippos and elephants
Hippo Fence Trial
In a collaborative effort between Awely, CLZ and the community of Mugurameno in the Chiawa GMA, an anti-hippo fence is being trialled in its effectiveness in keeping hippos out of vegetable gardens along the river’s edge. The fence came into fruition in response to calls from the community highlighting the damage that hippos do by trampling and raiding the gardens. The fence, set up by CLZ staff and community members over two days in May 2016 runs along a stretch of approximately 600 meters of river frontage where local farmers grow crops such as chilies, okra, eggplant, peppers, pumpkin and more all year round. The fence consists of a double line of electrical ‘tape’ (not wire which can be used for snares) that is fitted at two heights off the ground – at approximately 30 and 100cm – and runs along the river side of the vegetables gardens and half-way up along the sides. CLZ’s HWC Coordinator (and Awely Red Cap) has been monitoring the fence on a weekly basis to assess the success of the fence. To date it has successfully deterred hippos (and elephants).
CLZ and Awely host an Anti-Snare Campaign on an annual basis (since 2015). CLZ’s Environmental Educator, Besa Kaoma, Operations Manager Rabson Tembo and Awely Red Cap Stephen Kalio spend three days in three villages of the Chiawa GMA. The campaign focusses on the issue of snaring and how if you ‘remove a snare you can save a life’. The campaign is filled with drama activities and intellectual discussions about the effects snaring has on wildlife and in-turn tourism and the economy of the Lower Zambezi.
Rubatano Day attracts over 600 people every year
‘Rubatano’ (Unity in the local language Goba) is CLZ’s annual community sports day that brings together local netball and football teams to battle it out on the pitch for the grand prize of being the strongest, fastest and fittest team in the area. The event is aimed to promote relationships between the local community members, DNPW, conservation, lodges and other stakeholders outside of the law enforcement realm with which CLZ is often associated.
The Mbeli women’s group
Women are still an undermined group within many societies especially when considering natural resource management. However, it is the women who are left in the communities with the children and therefore have a constant interaction and influence on the local environment. From this perspective it is believed that women are at the forefront of change and productivity within their families and communities. CLZ feels that it is integral to support women empowerment within the local communities and allow women to feel engaged with conservation whilst financially empowering their needs. CLZ currently supports the ‘Mbelis’ (meaning ‘moving forward’ in the local language) which is a women’s group in the Chiawa GMA with the aim to develop their skills, create means of an income, take ownership of a business and find a market for their products.