In many of the continent’s most biodiverse regions, people have co-existed with wildlife for centuries. In these regions, livelihoods are directly dependent on natural resources, but overexploitation in the last few decades is making people and wildlife more vulnerable, increasing conflicts for already depleting resources and even driving illegal poaching of already-threatened wildlife species. As human settlements continue to grow in rural areas, engaging local actors — including community elders, women, and the youth — is absolutely necessary for Africa to meet its social, economic, and conservation goals.
African Wildlife Foundation partners with local communities to develop strategies for the sustainable use of arable land, forests, water sources, and pastures. This inclusive and participatory approach centers the perspectives of people who have always lived alongside wildlife, utilizing indigenous knowledge to simultaneously restore ecological integrity and drive local prosperity.
As climate change forcefully pushes pastoralists deeper into arid landscapes in their search for pasture, some might encroach on dedicated conservation areas, or overgraze on critical wildlife dispersal zones and deplete these areas essential for the expansion of wildlife populations. Limited water resources are similarly unable to support human development and recovering wildlife species. Some rivers are essential to national development, feed protected wildlife areas as well as commercial agriculture and hydroelectric plants — but are equally overused. Apart from improving river quality, restoring supply to these water sources is urgent but requires intensive protection of its watershed where deforestation is increasingly prevalent.
Some communities are having to turn to bushmeat hunting or illegal poaching to make a living, putting pressure on already dwindling wildlife populations.
Communities have a unique, comprehensive knowledge of their own landscapes and wildlife. That is why AWF believes in working to upskill the people who already live in key landscapes to protect their own resources.
Our approach to managing habitat loss in the LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary is built on empowering conservancy scouts — many of whom are natives of Kenya’s wildlife-rich Tsavo landscape — to mitigate illegal grazing, the biggest threat to wildlife in this area. Through our U.S. Agency of International Development program to upgrade the management of the communally owned conservation area, we facilitated a training for the conservancy’s scouts empowering them to enforce grazing laws effectively and address incidences of human-wildlife conflict.
As in many other communal conservation areas across the continent, AWF equips the scouts with advanced ecological monitoring technology allowing them to deploy mitigation strategies. Recording wildlife sightings and monitoring threat levels, the wildlife scouts can, for the first time, combine valuable knowledge of their homeland with conservation technologies to boost their careers and safeguard biodiversity.
In other areas, community scouts are monitoring carnivore populations to prevent human-wildlife conflict and protecting wildlife, like elephants and rhinos from poachers.
In addition to adopting the beehive fencing technology to keep crop-raiding elephants off their fields, farming communities in Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains are also using a simple bio-monitoring tool to assess the quality and health of the river. Organized into water-user associations and in collaboration with the national water ministry and Rufiji Water Board, local farmers are trained by AWF to understand how safeguarding their water resources secures a future for their small-scale agricultural enterprises.
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