Communities residing in the Caprivi have been losing both livestock and crops to wild animals. Due to the scale of the problem, a positive co-operative initiative is underway between the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) and the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) to jointly address the conflict situation between people and wildlife in that area. To address the problem these two NGOs are working with Caprivi’s Regional Governor and councillors, as well as with traditional leaders and conservancies.
A variety of factors have led to the conflict situation between local people and animals in the Caprivi. According to Nils Odendaal, Project Co-ordinator of the NNF, “Major problems are caused by elephants. Because of poor rainfall in the area, there is a limited food supply for them, so they take advantage of community crops. Once the elephants have raided the fields, people hardly have enough food for themselves. They also have problems with lions attacking their livestock. The lack of rain has meant poor crop yields, which further aggravates the situation.”
Better conservation efforts have had a positive as well as a negative impact, says Odendaal. “Over the last ten years the local people have established conservancies, and as a result, they have been able to benefit from the increased numbers of wild-life, practices such as trophy hunting and tourism.”
However, the higher animal populations mean more competition for food, resulting in more conflict between communities and wildlife. “This problem is quite serious, and poses a potential threat to conservation. If people are not compensated for the damages they suffer from living with wild animals, they will soon start resenting the wild animals, despite the community’s positive attitude towards them.”
A joint venture is currently underway to try and address the issue of problem animals in the Caprivi. The Regional Governor of the Caprivi and the regional MET office approached the NNF to assist in finding a solution. To gain an idea of the scale of the problem the NNF paid several visits to rural communities, conservancies and traditional authorities in the Caprivi. This involved surveys and consultations regarding the nature of the problem, as well as possible solutions to it. The solutions people offered ranged from employing additional game guards during peak seasons that the crops were being hit, to electric fencing and an improved monitoring and early warning system. There were also suggestions of setting up a communications infrastructure with the use of a radio network, and water points for wild animals to keep them away from livestock water points.
The report was widely distributed, also in the Caprivi, through the Office of the Governor by staff members of the MET and IRDNC. In it members of the public are asked to comment, and the possible solutions and suggestions received thus far are outlined.
Once the NNF and IRDNC have all the comments and suggestions, they will go back to the communities they first visited, discuss the people’s inputs with them, and then draw up a final project proposal which will be presented to donors for sponsorship. This will be aimed at addressing the issue of problem animals in the Caprivi through an integrated action plan. It is expected that sponsorship will, inter alia, come from the newly established Game Products Trust Fund, which sources its funds from, amongst others, the legal sale of ivory.
Although measures so far place an emphasis on preventing conflict between communities and wildlife, it is also necessary to respond quickly to situations, and to be able to monitor where and when incidents take place, and so constantly improve conflict management. This requires a monitoring system to assess the impact of the plan. For instance, if a game guard in a certain area sees a particular group of problem animals crossing the river, he should be in the position to contact the people downstream through an established monitoring system to warn them that problem animals are heading their way, and that they need to send more people into the fields.
While protecting the crops is a dangerous task, the risks can be minimised by professional trainers. The training, for example, could be done by officials of the MET, which has experts in elephant behaviour in the Caprivi with years of experience. Trainers can also be sent to the Caprivi to teach people how to behave around animals such as elephants.
One of the main aspects that came out of the surveys and consultations conducted with communities, conservancies and traditional authorities is the need for a compromise of some sort. “People are looking for some form of compensation or compromise for damages caused by problematic wildlife.”
The IRDNC, as partner NGO to the NNF, has been looking into the possibility of an insurance scheme. This type of scheme would have to come with many conditions, but conservancies and other registered members would be able to insure themselves and their livestock against damages caused by elephants, for example. There would also be conditions such as having to place livestock in a kraal at night, and having to look after the animals during the day.
“If conditions like these were to be met, and there were still game losses as a result of lions and other predators, and crop losses as a result of elephants and other wildlife, then there would be pay-outs. The reason for similar compensation schemes failing in other countries, is that there were too many indiscriminate pay-outs, so the funds simply ran out. It is believed that such a regulated insurance scheme would encourage people to be more responsible with their property.
One of the donors the NNF is considering to implement such a scheme is the Game Products Trust Fund, a Namibian fund established after the 1992 CITES Conference in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. It was at this conference that Namibia, Botswana and South Africa asked the World Convention for Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to be allowed to sell limited numbers of ivory to Japan. The international countries present at the conference agreed, provided all the income generated from selling ivory from Namibia’s national stockpile would benefit conservation.
As a result, Namibia established the Game Products Trust Fund, which is governed by representatives from Government and non- government sectors including NGOs and the private sector. According to Odendaal these are the people who preside over the fund, and who award funding to project proposals aimed at addressing environmental concerns such as problem animals in the Caprivi.
This article appeared in the 2002 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.
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