Adopt community-led initiatives for conservation: Africa Protected Area Congress

Community members should know about the operationalisation of the conservation practices taking place in Africa.

By Christophe Hitayezu
Published: Friday 22 July 2022
A panel discussion at Africa Protected Areas Congress

Community-led interventions always tend to support conservation measures, said experts at the first Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC).  

The six-day conference that began July 18, 2022 in Rwandan capital Kigali, aims at conserving nature, safeguarding Africa’s iconic wildlife, delivering vital life-supporting ecosystem services and promoting sustainable development.

Communities should be involved in protecting species as some animals in Africa spend most of their time outside protected areas, suggested Alphonce Mallya, programmes director for Northern Tanzania at The Nature Conservancy, an environmental organisation.

Mallya told Down To Earth:

The best strategy to do that is to work with the communities on their traditional and historical knowledge. Wildlife still exists in Africa only because of the strategies deployed by the local community. So, work with them, identify the strategies and promote them.

Put communities in the forefront of implementation and make sure there’s ownership and ensure that conservation-based revenue schemes are in place. So that, they can sustainably generate revenue out of the resources they're conserving, he added.

He also stressed the importance of ensuring transparency in governance. Communities should be informed of the distribution of benefits arising out of biodiversity.

They should know about the operationalisation of the conservation practices taking place in Africa, said Francis Osei-gyan, who works with the Amedzofe community in the Volta region of Ghana.

“You need to think about how you can support their livelihood. They kill the animals for survival. Some kill them for food, whereas others sell them. So, if you’re asking them not to kill animals, what alternative livelihood do you have for them? ” Francis told DTE.

One of the programmes we have in this regard is the ‘wildlife guardian program’ and with it, the community reserve is managed with the help of converted hunters.

People who used to hunt animals and those who put down trees have now been able to be convinced to conserve these animals and plant species, he explained.

“We have built a canopy walk-way, where tourists come and the revenue that is generated is used to support the community and their protected area management,” he added .

Poaching has reduced by 85 per cent in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, over the past 15 or 20 years. This is because communities were involved in conservation measures, said Francis.

“In 2005, we introduced a revenue-sharing scheme to ensure that the communities benefited from tourism. 10 per cent of tourism revenues were given to the community members,” Prosper Uwingeli, chief warden of Volcanoes National Park told DTE.

In 2019, Volcanoes National Park earned a revenue of $26 million with the contribution from ‘gorilla trekking’. By 2020, Rwanda Development Board distributed over $5 million to 647 community-based projects. In 2019 alone, $2.85 million was shared with the community, said Uwingeli.

Communities also benefitted from infrastructures such as water supply, electricity, schools and health centres.

“Sustainability of wildlife depends on recourses and commitments that people put in for protecting local communities,” told Professor Patience Gandiwa, director of the International Conservational Affairs at the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in Zimbabwe.

“Nothing can be done for communities without the participation of it’s members. So, the communities must be at the center of the strategy for the conservation of our natural resources.” she added.

Local communities have been conserving wildlife from time immemorial, she said.

We have to acknowledge their efforts and their way of life in terms of sustainable use of wildlife resources. So, we cannot alienate them. Africa and Africans have always lived in harmony with nature and that’s the future we want, Patience said.

The issues of poaching can be addressed only when Africa fully funds protected and conserved areas. So that, the real value of wildlife is realised by the communities, said Fulton Mangwanya, Director General for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

“We want sustainable funding, so that we will be able to manage the protected areas. The communities should be engaged ino eco-tourism projects which benefits them,” he added.

Some initiatives proved to work

Patience and Fulton shared their experience with CAMPFIRE – a community-based wildlife conservation program in Zimbawe. It aims to approach wildlife as a renewable and profitable resource.

Communities are involved in the decision making and planning and benefit sharing from wildlife resources in their areas. They benefit through tourism both consumptive and non-consumptive initiatives and they decide for themselves how to use the revenue. 

In Ghana, they have come up with several programs to be able to effectively manage their reserves, said Francis. One of them is called ‘behavior change program’. Local volunteers were recruited and trained to reach out and inform communities.


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