The Peace Parks Foundation, located in South Africa, has created a wide range of projects that have not only helped to reduce poaching in many Mozambican conservation areas, but have also helped to improve the livelihoods of thousands of people living in the surrounding communities.
The non-profit organization has been conducting restocking programs and ensuring the animals’ well-being in the Banhine, Zinave, and Limpopo National Parks, as well as the Maputo Special Reserve and the Ponta d’Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, in collaboration with the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC).
But to ensure success, Antony Alexander, Senior Project Manager at the Peace Parks Foundation, told AIM that it seeks to develop a long term relationship with the communities, fostering a number of approaches which have raised awareness about the need for conservation and wild life protection.
Firstly, he said, a regulatory framework has been put in place, through which 20 per cent of the parks’ revenues are channeled to communities, so that they see the benefit in the development of the conservation areas.
Secondly, Alexander pointed out the employment benefit taking as an example the Zinave National Park where about 150 community members have been employed permanently, developing tourist infrastructures inside the park.
“We have already started to establish governance structures in every single park, and have identified the beneficiaries connected to the communities”, Alexander explained. “We have supported the creation of structures that can elect their representatives and create the councils, which can communicate with the parks and also make decisions”.
In every park, he stated, “we have conservation agriculture drives, under which the beneficiaries learn how to grow crops in a more conservation wise manner, where they can produce without the need to clear vast tracks of land”. There are also reproductive health programmes involving women in the communities and some activists in the villages.
There are mariculture and aquaculture programmes underway in Ponta d’Ouro as revenue generation packages, and also training initiatives such as skills development in carpentry and brickmaking, and small business skills for entrepreneurial ventures which have made a significant impact on the livelihoods of the communities.
The Limpopo National Park, for instance, has a health programme focusing mainly on livestock and its management, and a programme intended to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
For Banhine National Park, which has not received a lot of attention, the Peace Parks Foundation has secured five million US dollars, for the next five years.
Alexander guaranteed that a substantial amount of the budget will go to the communities through the improvement of water systems initiative and health programmes.
“So we have a wide range of tools and projects to ensure that communities see value in conservation, and the park also gets value out of it. Obviously, combined with protection efforts inside the park, we believe the animals have been and will continue to be looked after and their numbers will surely continue to grow”, he said.
As for poaching, he said studies and practice show that intelligence is highly effective and is the way forward. A sound relationship with the communities, he argued, builds better intelligence which becomes far more effective in the anti-poaching operation.
Instead of having over 100 rangers in a park, Alexander said it is very good to have a community of thousands of people who are supporting the anti-poaching effort.