The New York Times published an op-ed by Kenyan journalist Murithi Mutiga on Wednesday about the importance of engaging local communities in efforts to combat poaching. Community stakeholders, Murithi argues, could be conservationists’ greatest allies in the fight against wildlife-trafficking syndicates.
Wild animals may hold a special place in our global heritage, but all too often they threaten the livelihood of the farmers and herders who live near nature reserves and game parks. Elephants routinely trample precious crops, and carnivores sometimes ravage whole herds of livestock.
Poachers have astutely tapped into this reserve of local grievances — made worse by high rates of poverty and unemployment — and struck up partnerships with people in communities around game parks.
Most Kenyans support conservation efforts. But in a country where arable land is exceedingly scarce and about a tenth of the land area is reserved for national parks and reserves, the authorities should take a more sophisticated approach in winning local support for conservation initiatives.
African countries, the author notes, could learn from Nepal, which gives special rights to communities living around major national parks – including royalties of 30 - 50 percent of the proceeds from park entry fees. The result is a local community invested in protecting the park and a massive decline in poaching.
Namibia has also had success with the community-based conservation model. The country's world-renowned conservancy program has empowered communities to create their own conservancies to manage and sustainably benefit from wildlife on communal land, including through tourism.
Senator Coons, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, has been a leading voice in the Senate for wildlife conservation and efforts to combat poaching in Africa. His third annual Opportunity: Africa conference, held earlier this month in Wilmington, featured a workshop on ending poaching and protecting Africa’s wildlife led by conservation experts from the State Department and World Wildlife Fund, as well as John Kasaona, a Namibian pioneer of community-based conservation. John was also a featured speaker at a Senate briefing on wildlife trafficking hosted by Senator Coons earlier this month.
Click here to read the full article on the New York Times’ website.