The Save Valley Conservancy (SVC) share boundaries with communities whose livelihood depends on subsistence farming and cattle rearing. The boundary fence between community land and the conservancy is the first line of defence against human wildlife conflicts (HWC) such as livestock predation, crop raiding and poaching. The fence guardian program aims to ensure that the fence is protected from vandalism and that it is also continuously maintained. We employ community members (all ladies) to mind the fence and also to report any breaches, ensuring that wild animals do not stray into the communities causing havoc. The fence also prevents livestock from straying into the conservancy where they can spread or contract diseases or be preyed upon by carnivores, and reduces access for poachers. Apart from reducing HWC and creating employment, this program gives communities a platform to participate in wildlife conservation.
Communities adjacent to SVC and GNP are characterised by high rates of poverty and unemployment. This has forced the communities to rely heavily on natural resources leading to the depletion of wildlife as a result of poaching and unsustainable utilisation. To relieve the pressure exerted on wildlife resources and the environment at large, we offer vocational training courses to community members from the above-mentioned communities. These courses are there to provide communities with alternative livelihood options and strategies so that they do not rely solely on natural resources. The vocational training courses we offer includes courses in brick laying and garment making.
Apart from empowering the most vulnerable members of the community, the vocational training scheme is seen by communities as a benefit and a reward for co-existing with wildlife. This creates pro-conservation narratives within communities, mitigating HWC and also creating a mutually beneficial relationship between communities and the wildlife areas. The trained individuals will also offer their services to the community whenever they are needed, thus taking part in the development of their communities.
Human wildlife conflicts are inevitable in communities living near conservation areas. If not controlled and addressed they can have unbearable consequences for both community development and wildlife conservation. Our team of education officers relentlessly creates awareness on HWC and they also assist communities with mitigation measures that can be adopted to create harmony between communities and nature. This is achieved through community meetings and the conservation messages disseminated by learners as a result of our Environment Education lessons in schools.
In partnership with the Bourke Family Foundation, we have established 16 solar powered community libraries in communities around SVC and GNP. We observed that in rural areas much of the day is spent doing chores and running household errands leaving no room for reading. The only free time people get to read is during the night, however there is no electricity in those areas and other alternative sources of lighting are expensive. The establishment of these solar-lit community libraries has enabled much greater access for community members, teachers and learners. This program has been of great help to exam writing classes such as the grade 7, ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level learners, they can study for their exams during the evenings peacefully without any disturbances.
In partnership with the Veterinary Department of Zimbabwe and the Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ), we provide free rabies vaccinations to communities around SVC and GNP. These rabies vaccination campaigns are a measure we took to control the spread of the disease to wild dogs and humans. The communities around SVC and GNP are poor and the majority cannot afford to buy the rabies vaccine for their dogs. As a result, most domestic dogs are not vaccinated exposing humans, wild dogs and other wildlife as well as domestic dogs to the deadly rabies disease. The free rabies vaccinations are highly appreciated by the communities. Several thousand dogs are vaccinated each year.
We work in rural communities that are deeply rooted in their culture and proud of their traditional heritage. This traditional heritage is the basis of life in those communities and is passed from generation to generation. As a way of promoting and preserving the culture of communities we work with, we support cultural fairs and other special occasions initiated by the communities. The cultural fairs are a platform for the communities to showcase their culture and traditional ways of life. By promoting their culture we are also preserving the traditional knowledge systems (TKS) and traditional knowledge that has been used by these people for centuries. Some aspects of TKS are very useful in fighting climate change, droughts and HWC. In addition, traditional practices such as the use of totems and protection of sacred forests can be of utmost importance to wildlife conservation.
The participation and involvement of communities in wildlife conservation and the protection of endangered species becomes successful when the community development needs of a community are met. Communities adjacent to both SVC and GNP are in dire need of clean and accessible water. In response to this problem, we have a water project that provides clean running water to clinics, schools and homes, and has proven to be immensely beneficial in winning hearts and minds for conservation. Our Muvava water project has pioneered the way for what we hope will be many more.
As part of our community outreach program, during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we supported 8 clinics with resources that enable nurses to fight against the contraction and spread of Covid-19 in communities adjacent to SVC. These resources go a long way in assisting rural communities which are usually under equipped and underfunded. We provided them with infra-red thermometers, face masks, gloves and sanitizers, we also created awareness on the pandemic through the use of Covid-19 posters and our education team also encourage the community members to follow all the precautionary measures as per the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. We maintain support of clinics as necessary.
The government of Zimbabwe has established feeding programs in rural schools as a way of fighting against malnutrition in rural schools. To complement the government’s efforts, we support schools with materials and resources to start up nutrition gardens. The nutrition gardens provide schools with beans, vegetables and other agricultural products that guarantees the learners a healthy and nutritious meal. The gardens are also used for agriculture lessons in line with the new curriculum and the learners are responsible for attending to the garden. The schools can also sell some of the produce from their gardens and use the income to purchase other essentials for the feeding program such as cooking oil, salt etc.
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