Zimbabwe's Wildlife Guardians
Shrinking areas of habitable land in Zimbabwe is putting both people and rhinos under threat. Together, we need to help humans and rhinos live side by side and prosper. That’s why this Christmas we are asking you to sponsor a Wildlife Guardian, as part of our new, innovative pilot scheme: The Great Land Share Project.
These will be individuals from the local community who will become experts in farming and living together with wildlife, who can then share their knowledge with their peers, who will then share their knowledge to others, who will share their knowledge…
Training Wildlife Guardians
In Save Valley, there are reports of elephants trampling crops, increased bush fires, a rise in transmission of disease between wild animals and livestock, and increased poaching for bushmeat. It’s putting both people and rhinos under real threat.
In Zimbabwe, land previously safeguarded for wildlife is being cleared to make way for agriculture and livestock, and new, unplanned villages and subsistence farming are further eating into conservation areas.
Combined with people facing drought, poor harvests and a flailing economy, it’s a perfect storm. People and rhinos are suffering, so we’re creating a new role: Wildlife Guardians.
In 2017 our goal is to train ten wildlife guardians, both men and women who will become ambassadors for their natural heritage.
Each wildlife guardian will spend three days on a specially designed course, with food and travel costs included, so that they can learn the skills they need to pass onto their communities.
Here are the areas that each Wildlife Guardian will learn about in more detail…
Fire management training will help prevent uncontrollable bushfires – which threaten rhino habitat and villages alike. Fires are commonplace in areas like these. They can be caused by dry conditions, but also from fires for cooking or kerosene lanterns.
In the semi-arid Lowveld region, the soil isn’t fertile enough for many types of farming, so some farmers chop down trees and burn them to increase soil fertility. But cutting down trees degrades land further, and burning their wood increases the risk of bushfires.
Wildlife Guardians will help their communities to protect livestock from predator by learning about bomas, special pens designed to keep livestock safe. They help to avoid human-wildlife conflict. And keeping livestock separate from wildlife also prevents the transmission of disease between them. This is important to protect farmers’ livelihoods, and also to protect endangered species like black rhinos.
Wildlife Guardians will also be trained to monitor livestock loses annually, so we can keep track and learn what is working best. Local farmers will be able to talk to Wildlife Guardians about their problems, and share information about any predators or diseases.
Learning to use water irrigation techniques can help farmers improve their harvest and keep soil fertile. This also stops farmers from needing to continually expand. They benefit from improved harvests and higher yield crops from smaller areas of land, so they don’t need to cut down more woodland to create space.
Planting chillis in strategic positions helps reduce the likelihood of elephants trampling crops and coming into conflict with people - a simple nugget of insight that Wildlife Guardians can share with their local communities that will reap huge reward later on.
Beehives can also deter wildlife and prevent crop losses. Like chili plants, their produce can also help boost a farmers' income.
How your support helps
£50 will pay for 10 manuals that can be shared among the local community
£250 pays for 3 days’ training for a Wildlife Guardian, so they can support their community to manage the environment better, and live alongside wildlife.
The Big Picture
Long-term, growing human populations and habitat loss are threatening the existence of some of the world’s most spectacular wild spaces.
In Zimbabwe, it isn’t a question of keeping people and wildlife separate. They are already living in the same places. Now we need to move forward – together – and help people benefit from wildlife too.
In the future, Zimbabwe could be home to a thriving eco-tourism industry. If the Great Land Share Project is a success, it could be replicated across the country and form a first step towards that vision of a brighter future for one of Africa’s poorest nations.