Talent Chimutambgi and Tanyaradzwa Mutizwa
THE European Union (EU) has sponsored projects in Zimbabwe which are aimed at promoting biodiversity management through community participation to reduce illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching.
The projects, which are part of the Cross-Regional Wildlife Conservation (CRWC) programme, would be spearheaded by three organisations — Sustainable Agriculture Trust (SAT), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and CIRAD — under the EU.
Speaking during the launch of CRWC projects last week, head of EU delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Timo Olkkonen said the project would benefit communities and play a critical role in promoting cooperation on natural resources management. “The projects we are here to launch today (Friday last week) will enhance community-based cross-border cooperation on natural resources management, with particular attention to wildlife conservation in terms of anti-poaching and human-wildlife conflict and illegal wildlife trafficking mitigation,” he said.
“From our own experience on the ground, supported by a number of reputable studies and research, we can realistically say that communities are our first line of defence against poaching and land degradation.”
Mr Olkkonen said the elements of Transfrontier Conservation Areas establishment and operation would extend from the highest level down to the grassroots at community level.
“Communities are in fact the core beneficiaries of these projects as we believe they play a critical role in the sustainable management of natural resources,” he said.
Mr Olkkonen said the projects would complement Government efforts in wildlife conservation and empower communities to support biodiversity management.
“We are not reinventing the wheel, we are actually reinforcing what this country audaciously conceived in the 80s with the Campfire programme,” he said.
“However, we cannot take communities assistance and loyalty for granted, we need to give them a voice in the decision making process and an incentive to support wildlife conservation as an economically viable and competitive land use option.”
Speaking at the same occasion, Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Permanent Secretary Mr Munesu Munodawafa said the support from EU would enable the country to manage ecosystems in Transboundary Conservation Areas and in Zimbabwe within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area.
“The European Union, through its initiatives of SAT programme would play a pivotal role in the country’s efforts to sustainably manage ecosystems in the Transboundary Conservation Areas,” he said.
“In Zimbabwe, within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, Wildlife in Livelihood Development (WILD) programme’s efforts complemented the existing efforts in community-led conservation and sustainable natural resources management in support of conservation, sustainable rural development and livelihood improvement.”
Mr Munodawafa said Government welcomed important initiatives aimed at promoting natural resources management, with the ultimate goal of ensuring wildlife management, improving socio-economic and ecological resilience in communal areas in the country and the region.