As a result of a Darwin Initiative Scoping Award that the EWT received, we were able to undertake further community based research to better understand the drivers behind the wildlife poisoning in the South Luangwa area and to hold a multi stakeholder workshop to develop a project to mitigate for this threat. The scoping award was specifically for work aimed at understanding the drivers of poisoning as a step towards developing a bigger and more focused project to address the problem. Kerryn, Osiman, Griffin, Nyambe and Chaona (BirdWatch Zambia) from the ICF/EWT Partnership team and Andre Botha working on EWT Special Projects gathered at South Luangwa for a workshop, held on 20 – 21 July at the head office of the Zambian National Department of Parks and Wildlife in South Luangwa National Park. The workshop was arranged in partnership with Conservation South Luangwa, Zambia Carnivore Programme and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. 23 delegates representing various stakeholder groups from the communities, agricultural and conservation sectors attended.
Ahead of the workshop, Osiman conducted a social survey to assess drivers of wildlife poisoning and other human-wildlife conflicts in villages located with the Park’s buffer zones ahead of the workshop. The survey involved interviews and focus group discussions targeting villagers, government extension officers, park officials and representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations. The interviews and discussions were guided by the following themes; historical poisoning event analysis, human-wildlife conflict interface analysis, socio-demographic profiling of “actors” behind poisoning, animal product utilisation practices and motivations, community perceptions of human-wildlife conflict management systems and feasible solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
Findings from our engagement of local communities during the social survey and insights presented by workshop participants highlighted the need for multi-stakeholder approach to mitigate wildlife poisoning. Our work confirmed that drivers of poisoning have various dimensions, including cognitive (lack of awareness on impacts of poisons), livelihood challenges (lack of income generation opportunities), human health (consumption of poisoned causing illnesses), legislative and policy (lack of effective regulation of access to poisons) and limited stakeholder collaboration (no sharing of data and experiences across government departments and other stakeholders). The scoping work we undertook also helped us identify key knowledge gaps and the need to include social and ecological research in tandem with community outreach /extension as part of poisoning mitigation process.
Our scoping exercises revealed that stakeholders in the agricultural value chains need to be engaged to effective mitigate poisoning. These include farmers, farming input dealers, technical extension service providers, chemical distribution companies, agricultural marketing companies and veterinary specialists. In addition to the agricultural sector, the public health sector has also been identified as an important stakeholder group in terms of creating awareness of and reducing the threat of exposure to poisons by the consumption of wildlife products acquired by means of poisoning.
The conceptual model that is currently under development can be seen below.
Article by Osiman Mabhachi (Community Projects Specialist) and Kerryn Morrison (Senior Manager: Africa)