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Time to address human-wildlife conflict to achieve the dual goal of wildlife conservation & enhanced human livelihoods

14 April 2022

For several years, human and wildlife conflict (HWC) in Dewe Ward 17 one of the six wards bordering the Matopos National Park has been a significant problem, not only has HWC led to loss of livestock and crops but also loss of lives.

Conflicts are particularly common near protected areas where human and wildlife requirements overlap. For the Ward 17 community all these challenges can be resolved if the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks) and the Rural District Council work together. They are confident that actions regarding the control of problem animals might be resolved if they are devolved to the community level.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in partnership with Caritas Bulawayo in their project to promote farmers’ rights and natural resource management have over the past five years ensured that they enhance engagement between these stakeholders. During a recently held engagement meeting organized by the two-organizations whose objective was to come up with strategies that will help farmers working closely with ZimParks to address HWC, farmers expressed satisfaction over the several capacity building initiatives and legal support being offered by the organization.

ZIMPARKS Official Mr Mudimba, makes a presentation during the engagement meeting

During the meeting, Zimparks Official Mr.  Kainos Mugande expressed determination to work with locals in dealing with issues of HWC. He highlighted that some challenges would have been easily resolved if only the locals were aware of the chain of communication.

“As Zimparks we are responsible for conserving Zimbabwe’s wildlife, and it is important that you do the same. I am sorry of the sad incident that led to loss of life and do assure you that in future if you make formal reports, the Authority will swiftly act as has always been the norm. We have realized that in some instances, communities assume reports would have been made to Parks and such assumptions tend to cost us.

If there are troublesome animals, the RDC can report these to the Parks who can do an Ecological assessment. In some instances, rangers react to problem animal control using lethal and non-lethal methods.  Every course of action is for the benefit of the community, that is why CAMPFIRE exists. Communities are also allowed to come up with proposals. We have seen some communities coming up with good wildlife ranching proposals and some recommending good photographic safaris.”

The farmers also enquired about the issue of compensation when they lose livestock, crops, and even lives because of HWC. The authority indicated that RDC does compensate. However, the Council was not present to respond to some of the questions raised.

The farmers also enquired about the contents of Cecil John Rhodes’ will who was buried in Matobo’s World View. The Parks Authorities also gave an assurance that they would enquire about the issue and give feedback.

In addition, there was also a query on the Parks’ commitment to employ locals and if it is inclusive considering that only a few have benefited from contractual arrangements.  The Authority indicated that they have managed to employ several locals. It is mostly those who have worked with Zimparks even for a short period and have had a history with the Institution who normally benefit.

A local farmer, Silindile Moyo emphasized that it is through such engagements that assist in resolving contentious issues. Her hope is to see the project reaching out to as many people as possible. She argues that if all stakeholders work together for the common good most of the issues can be resolved.

About the project

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association in its determination to promote farmers’ rights and natural resource management is working with farmers from Bikita, Insiza and Matobo made possible by the generous support of Trocaire. The project titled: Promoting a Rights Based Approach to the Utilization and Management of Natural Resources by Smallholder Farmers’ goal is to empower women and men to actively engage and benefit from sustainable and resilient livelihoods.

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