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Creating Community Value in Conservation

Creating Community Value in Conservation

Creating Community Value in Conservation

A collaborative partnership between an NGO and the Sekute Community has resulted in community-led conservation, with benefits going directly back to Sekute’s men, women and children

In a region that spans across parts of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, a richly diverse landscape plays host to an array of wildlife – including the largest population of elephants in Africa. Important wildlife corridors connect disparate habitats, allowing wildlife to roam freely, especially in areas south of the Zambezi River in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

For communities living in southern Zambia along the northern banks of the Zambezi River, however, population growth has led to unplanned and expanding settlements and intensified competition for vital resources. Dependency on natural resources for food, income and livelihood security is common here, with the result being widespread human–wildlife conflict that in many cases impedes regional initiatives to protect wildlife and sustainably manage natural resources.

Sixty kilometres west of Livingstone, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is working with the Sekute Community to find value in conservation. In 2002, AWF facilitated the establishment of the Sekute Community Development Trust, a community-based organisation that oversees the sustainable use and management of the area’s natural resources. AWF and the Trust then developed an integrated, landscape-level conservation plan with input from a broad range of stakeholders, including government, private sector and local community members.

‘Our organisation’s mission is to work with fellow Africans to ensure that our wildlife and wild lands endure forever. While the protection of wildlife and habitat is at the core of AWF’s work, we cannot do it in isolation. The communities and local stakeholders are vital to conservation, not just in this region but in all of Africa,’ says Mr Nasson Tembo, director of the Kazungula landscape for AWF.

Over the past 12 years, AWF and the Sekute Community have forged a strong relationship by working together to identify opportunities in improved resource management that would also result in benefits to the community. They have achieved numerous initiatives. Among the most noteworthy has been the realisation of a common vision to set aside 40,000 hectares of land strictly for conservation. In late 2009, AWF signed this landmark conservation agreement with the Sekute Community to establish the Sekute Community Conservation Area. The community agreed to manage and protect this important conservation area in exchange for a host of community and economic benefits.

1st community conservation area in Zambia
The Sekute Community Conservation Area is located at the point where Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe meet, otherwise known as the ‘Four Corners.’ It features 25 miles of Zambezi River frontage, including two important wildlife corridors linking Botswana and Zambia. As the first community conservation areas in Zambia, it is not only allowing the Sekute Community to benefit from increased land conservation but has also empowered members to manage the conservancy themselves.

For example, 19 local youths have been employed and trained as community scouts under the supervision of Zambia Wildlife Authority. A wildlife protection and monitoring system was developed with community input and is routinely used during foot patrols and data analysis. The success of this has already been proven by the seizure in 2012 of 21 pieces of elephant ivory totalling 600 kgs and subsequent arrests of seven illegal wildlife traffickers.

‘This area for many years has served as a transit point for ivory and rhino horn from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe,’ notes Mr Jones Masonde, Ecologist for AWF’s Kazungula landscape. ‘The presence of highly motivated community scouts in Sekute is now helping to curb this.’

AWF and the SCDT are now continuing to work together to meet the development needs of the community, demonstrating the complexity of the strategies needed to help communities realise benefits from wildlife and natural resource conservation. As a way of finding that balance between conservation and development, AWF has reconstructed the local community school (see ‘Easements for Education’) to incentivise sustainable natural resource management and established a fishing lodge to generate income.

‘Conservation for the sake of conservation is no longer an effective means to managing Africa’s natural resources,’ says Tembo. ‘Sustainably creating value in conservation by working with communities and putting in place short- and long-term benefits is an essential element to ensuring conservation throughout Africa.’

Adds Mr Mulele, chairman of the Trust, ‘Conserving natural resources attracts tourism and generates employment. Because of conservation, we have access to boys’ and girls’ school scholarships, we have an office overseeing natural resource management, we have trained and employed village scouts, and we have constructed a lodge that will generate resources for the communities. The management of natural resources has made the communities realise its benefits.’

About AWF
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is an international non-governmental organisation with more than 50 years of conservation experience focused solely on the continent of Africa. AWF’s strategy involves an integrated landscape-scale approach to conservation, addressing threats and opportunities in conservation and livelihoods at the ecosystem level. AWF is committed in the belief that conservation should be ‘African-led’. Thus, AWF ensures that community participation is meaningful throughout project development, partnerships are established with government and local institutions, and the capacity of partners is built to sustain deliverables beyond project timeframes. 

Working in more than 15 countries throughout Africa, AWF works at the landscape, site-specific and country level, implementing programmes related to the broad categories of people (specifically, education and enterprise), wildlife protection and land conservation. All of AWF’s work addresses the issues of climate change and policy.

The Sekute Community Conservation Area

In 2009, African Wildlife Foundation and the Sekute Community signed a landmark conservation agreement that established the Sekute Community Conservation Area.

What it is: The first community conservation area in Zambia
Size of conservation area: 40,000 hectares
Who owns: Sekute Community through the Sekute Community Development Trust
Who manages: Sekute Community through the Sekute Community Development Trust, with support from the Zambian Wildlife Authority
Conservation benefits: Since the establishment of the community conservation area, more habitat is being preserved, and there has been an increase in the presence of wildlife, such as elephants, buffalo, kudu, waterbuck, bushbuck and impala. This is being monitored and reported by the community scouts, who have also noted that while charcoal production is widespread, deforestation has reduced within the conservation area.
Community benefits: Employment for up to 20 youths as community scouts; improved education through the reconstruction of Lupani Community School; improved access to secondary education through the Easements for Education scholarships; employment for the construction of Machenje Fishing Lodge; and foreseen economic benefits for development projects upon opening of the Lodge and establishment of a Wildlife Breeding Sanctuary.

No. of residents benefitting: Approximately 10,000 people residing in the Sekute Community

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 13, June 2013)

Read more from Zambezi Traveller:
AWF Celebrates Opening of Community-Owned Conservation Lodge in Zambia (ZT News Update, Aug 2013)
Creating Community Value in Conservation (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
Conservation-Driven Enterprise (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
Easements for Education (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
Communities can win with wildlife (ZT, Issue 10, Sept 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
African Wildlife Foundation