By Justin Salani
Community involvement in the conservation of wildlife resources is vital for the survival of African wildlife. A conservation conscious community can help reduce poaching, control veldt vires and minimise deforestation. Communities can also help in the restoration of degraded environments as well as the prevention of the extinction of indigenous wildlife species. At the same time, their involvement has a reciprocal benefit, protection of the environment which in turn provides employment, money and improved livelihoods.
The Nyangambe Community Wildlife Conservation project in Chiredzi North, a Save Valley Conservancy buffer is one of the thriving community led wildlife conservation projects in the country. The project is jointly owned by 181 families from Nyangambe Resettlement Area, and is currently run in partnership with Leloma African Hunting Safaris.
Nyangambe Communal Area, Ward 23 in Chiredzi North Constituency is a planned resettlement scheme established in 1983 under the historic Land Reform Programme. The agro-based community has had experienced perennial human to wildlife conflicts since time immemorial owing to its proximity to the Save Valley Conservancy, one of the largest private game reserves in Africa.
The wildlife conservation project currently employs a number of young men from the community, and the profits generated through trophy hunting have been channeled towards other community projects such as agriculture, improvement of school infrastructure and other social amenities. It has also reduced incidents of human to wildlife conflict, which used to haunt the community. People from the community have also realised the significance of protecting wildlife resources as the proceeds from the project have transformed the area.
Proposals for the project, including developing a tourism belt from as far as the fringes of Bikita district through Gudo to Nyangambe under the Save Valley Conservancy were put forward around 1998. The proposal included building a traditional village which could be marketed to clients from Mukazi, Hammond, Senuko and Mukwazi. The inception of the current wildlife conservation project was thus a product of the negotiations between the Save Valley Conservancy and representatives of the Nyangambe community to incorporate approximately 25km² of land into the conservancy.
The community wildlife conservation project which was then introduced in 2006 was later approved by an ecologist in 2016 after assessment resulting in the acquisition of an ownership clearance from Chiredzi Rural District Council. Pioneer partners in the conservancy include Nyeredzi Safaris, Zambezi Hunters, and later Green Safari Africa. These organisations were responsible for overseeing the hunting process by professional hunters and the selling of trophy. Nyangambe Wildlife Conservation project has become a thriving community owned wildlife management project which has benefited nature and the community itself.
The deciduous woodland savanna provides a stable habitat for a range of wildlife including elephants and rhinos. Though located in the hot and dry semi-arid lands of the lowveld, there are reliable water sources all-year round since water is also obtained from the Manjirenji-Mkwasine canal. Commercialisation of ecological tourism services is under way as there are plans to construct a lodge in the area.
Recently, the community project became a recognised member of the Save Valley Conservancy. Since the project started running effectively, cases of human to wildlife conflicts have plummeted.