People rely on, and sometimes unsustainably use, the continent’s natural resources to prosper.
People everywhere want to do more than survive. They want to thrive and prosper. But the opportunities are not always available. Rural Africa is home to some of the most marginalized groups of people — not only do they lack access to quality education and healthcare, they depend largely on the natural environment for their income. Whether they are small-scale subsistence farmers or traditional pastoralists, many of these communities are neighbors to wildlife species in conservation areas.
Their settlements overlap with critical wildlife dispersal zones in some cases, and the close proximity increases the risk of human-wildlife conflict, habitat degradation, and illegal hunting activities. As these ecosystems fall under increasing demand from growing human pressure, sustainable conservation practices can be an economic driver that is used to protect biodiversity and address the livelihood needs of Africa’s people.
Limited access to knowledge and skills that promote environmentally friendly livelihoods.
Communities that reap substantial socioeconomic benefits from the wildlife and nearby habitat, naturally become conservation advocates.
However, poor access to education and alternative practices in rural landscapes maintains a cycle of poverty and unsustainable land-use in critical biodiversity areas. Without managing natural resources responsibly, the decline of Africa’s species and lands will continue, hindering people from realizing long-term prosperity.
Africa’s rural children are too often left behind when it comes to access to a quality education. This lack of access results in a reliance on natural resources to supplement their livelihoods, which diminishes their livelihood prospects in adulthood. By building schools in rural, wildlife-rich areas we educate Africa’s children, teaching them about conservation and equipping them with the tools to have a bright future — and, in turn, we are creating a sustainable future for Africa’s wildlife.
In many communities, wildlife is viewed as a threat because of its propensity to destroy crops, threaten physical safety, and jeopardize livelihoods. However, AWF is shifting this paradigm by developing strategies that allow the people who live near wildlife to benefit from their proximity.
Households near protected areas, like those around Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Parks in Uganda, contend with elephants and other large mammals crossing their settlements as they migrate in search of food and water.
AWF and the Uganda Wildlife Authority developed an innovative human-wildlife mitigation strategy for this community: Chili farming. Following the success of burning chili in warding off elephants, cultivation of this plant was quickly adopted and scaled up by local farmers. Now the chili peppers are generating twice as much revenue as the traditional crops historically planted by farmers, and they are keeping elephants at bay.
Where wildlife dispersal areas are degraded by unregulated livestock grazing, or subdivided and sold for development, AWF leases the land from communities who are willing to consolidate their land into conservancies.
On some community-owned conservancies, AWF has linked the landowners with private tourism operators to establish ecotourism as a viable livelihood option for local community members. Sustainable community-led tourism enterprises are delivering conservation success in transboundary landscapes as diverse as Amboseli’s vast savanna and Rwanda’s dense tropical rainforest.
When conservation is directly connected to economic gain it becomes second nature, especially when it results in increased crop yields and revenue. AWF is proud to work with communities across Africa to make sure that they reap benefits from sustainable, conservation-friendly activities.
For example, in Southern Tanzania, AWF is working with the Global Nature Fund and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group to train 2,000 smallholder farmers in the fertile Kilombero Valley on sustainable climate-smart agriculture. By providing seedlings and improving the value chain of their crop, farmers have improved agricultural yields and gained access to new markets. This innovative agricultural system is helping restore wildlife habitat on land adjacent to the Kilombero Nature Reserve and secure important wildlife corridors as part of IUCN’s Sustainability and Inclusion Strategy for Growth Corridors in Africa (SUSTAIN-Africa) program.