Sustainable use of natural assets secures a future for Africa’s people, wildlife, and wild lands.
Already facing serious socioeconomic challenges and limited financial access, people living in some of the continent’s most biodiverse landscapes also share space with wildlife. To set the foundation for long-term financial security and biodiversity protection, we work with communities to develop unique solutions that allow them to build alternative sources of income that also prevent environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.
Wildlife and impoverished communities are both struggling to survive.
Without suitable institutions and know-how to make a living, more and more people are forced to clear forests to expand their farms or move into wildlife conservation areas in search of pasture for livestock, causing wildlife dispersal zones to shrink and increasing the risk of human-wildlife conflict.
In their struggle to survive, people who live in close proximity to wildlife might choose to poach small mammals to sell at bushmeat markets or even conspire with ivory or rhino horn traders in the slaughter of charismatic species and trafficking of illegal wildlife products.
Development solutions are not always socially inclusive.
In addition to the lack of sustainable natural resource management frameworks in rural Africa, limited access to quality education diminishes the opportunities available to young people in these landscapes — many of them remote and lacking basic infrastructure. Similarly, few economic and training options are available for women to increase their family incomes, driving them to continue to put pressure on natural resources without understanding the potential of value and economic potential of biodiversity protection.
African Wildlife Foundation helps communities leverage biodiversity protection to end poverty.
Settled so close to wildlife-rich protected areas, smallholder farmers around Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park plant foul-smelling chilis and douse rags in chili oil to deter crop-raiding elephants. Apart from mitigating human-wildlife conflict, the chili crop is also providing new agricultural opportunities for many households, and households are making double their past revenue by planting this powerful, multifunctional crop. AWF provides new chili farmers with training and access to markets through the U.S. Agency for International Development Biodiversity Program, keeping elephants and people safe from human-wildlife conflict.
In this same landscape, AWF introduced beekeeping to help communities understand the link between protecting forest resources and developing financial stability. Training more than 800 people around two forest reserves, AWF is supporting the development of apiary businesses by supplying hives and essential equipment including harvesting suits, smokers, scales, and guidebooks.
The beekeepers are organized and registered as producer cooperatives with the appropriate government ministries, enabling them to access commercial markets and the capital to grow a self-sustaining micro-enterprise. With new sources of sustainable income, farmers can keep their children in school and build a solid foundation for community conservation.
Women are increasingly becoming the primary economic actors in their households, and due to a lack of opportunity, they often resort to overexploiting natural resources to provide for their families. AWF understands the challenges these women, and their families, face, and we are working to empower women to develop conservation-friendly livelihoods.
In the remote forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo — a vital habitat for endemic species like the bonobo and forest elephant — AWF’s women-only environmental education training center offers courses in tailoring and soap-making. Hundreds of women who have graduated from the three-month course are now instrumental in reducing the community’s dependence on the natural environment for farmland or firewood and bushmeat for sale. Through the U.S. Agency of International Development’s Central Africa Forest Ecosystems Conservation program, the center also provides seed funding to the newly trained female entrepreneurs, enabling them to establish sustainable enterprises, preventing further deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
In wildlife-rich landscapes where communities live on large tracts of communal land, AWF encourages landowners to instead devote their acreage to conservation. Often, this land connects protected areas and is critical for wide-ranging wildlife like large carnivores or it overlaps ancient migratory routes of elephants. However, these tracts are is at risk of subdivision and conversion for agriculture, shrinking the space species needs to move. In addition to facilitating leases for communities living here, we help build local ly owned ecolodges that create jobs and result in a significant conservation incentive. The lodges’ community owners and conservancy leadership reinvest revenues in local infrastructure and in schools, improving the quality of life in these rural areas.