HARARE: The European Union (EU) has injected close to $2 million into Zimbabwe aimed at reducing poaching and conserving wildlife.
African Wildlife Foundation senior communications officer Grace Wairima said the funding will be used for improved anti-poaching and compatible land use in community lands of the Lower Zambezi — Mana Pools Transboundary Conservation Area (LZMP-TFCA).
“The overall objective of this three-year project is to reduce illegal wildlife trade and habitat conversion in the LZMP TFCA by establishing models for strengthened community engagement in sustainable natural resource management, anti-poaching efforts and integrated land use that ensures conservation and compatible land uses,” she said.
“The project will deliver on this overall objective by incentivising fishers to cooperate with wildlife authorities along the Zambezi River to stop wildlife crime by improving their governance and fishing practices,” Wairima told The Financial Gazette.
This comes as AWF is helping to organise an anti-poaching rapid-response unit in the area and has also facilitated joint patrols between Zimbabwean and Zambian authorities on the Zambezi River, the first-ever joint patrols in the area.
For decades, poaching has been a thorny issue for Zimbabwe and many other African countries. The rampant illegal killing of big game is threatening the survival of several species; and wildlife crime is on the rise due to an increased demand for illegally acquired ivory.
Poaching is rife in national parks such as Hwange, Gonarezhou, Save Conservancy and the Zambezi Valley — all home to over 84,500 elephants.
Recently, the Zimbabwe Republic Police launched an investigation into former first lady Grace Mugabe over allegations that she headed a poaching and smuggling syndicate which illegally exported tonnes of elephant tusks, gold, and diamonds from the country.
Wairima said the funding from the EU will also be used to provide community scouts in Mbire District the same training parks rangers receive and facilitating joint patrols to better secure community areas.
“We are also hoping to slow deforestation by engaging the private sector and communities to codevelop demand-driven solutions to threats from tobacco curing and uncontrolled expansion of cultivation,” she said.
The project also aims at initiating the development of a Communal Wildlife Conservancy to secure corridors for wildlife movement and reducing human wildlife conflict by working with communities to replicate existing mitigation best practices among other things.
Kaddu Sebunya, the AWF president said there was an urgent need to protect wildlife and wild lands, not only in Zimbabwe but in Africa, which are facing extinction due to rampant poaching and rapid human settlement development.
“Africa has never been in a better place than it is today, with the longest unbroken period of peace and progress ever, despite the extreme difficulties some countries still face. Our continent is currently undergoing an unprecedented and rapid transformation as a result of high economic growth rates,” he said.
Sebunya indicated that new infrastructure developments, extractive industries, urbanisation, and other economic activities are transforming Africa towards the development state.
“The bad news is that while this transformation is positively impacting economic development and quality of life of Africans, in many cases it is stealing from our future. The ecological infrastructure of Africa which is the foundation that provides goods and services that support economic development and high quality of life is being exploited unsustainably. If this development is not managed well the future is not very good,” he added.