EU delegation visits Mbire district, sees damaging impact of climate change Members of the EU Delegation visited Mbire rural district recently to assess EU-funded projects

Sifelani Tsiko Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor

Western countries need to first understand the impact of climate change and human wildlife conflict on affected communities in the Mid-Zambezi Valley in order to make informed decisions on interventions that could be taken to mitigate the impacts, Bernard De Schrevel, EU Team Leader in Zimbabwe said recently.

“We came to Mbire and we now see its (climate change) impact and consequences at local level. In addition, those consequences are here aggravated by human-wildlife conflict. We need to understand the reality and the challenges faced at ward level in order to inform the decisions to be taken,” he said during a tour organised by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Zimbabwe for eight European Union (EU) Heads of Cooperation and Deputy Ambassadors in Mbire District.

Human-wildlife conflicts are rife in Mbire district and arise from people and animals coming into contact – often leading to people killing animals in self-defence, or as pre-emptive or retaliatory killings, which can drive species to extinction.

EU heads of cooperation and deputy ambassadors visited Mbire District recently to see successful projects implemented under the 2018-2021 EU – Lower Zambezi programme.

The EU Delegation comprised of Eva Van Woersem – The Netherlands Deputy Ambassador, Head of Cooperation – Anne Bourdy, France Deputy Ambassador, Head of Cooperation, Michel Ott, Germany Deputy Ambassador, Head of Cooperation, Bertholet Kaboru, Sweden Head of Cooperation, Bernard De Schrevel, EU Team Leader, David Palacios, EU Programme Manager, Felix Engdahl, Sweden Researcher and Katharina Huebner a GIZ Representative.

The AWF in partnership with Conservation Lower Zambezi, the Zambezi Society, and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) implemented the ‘Partnership for Improved Anti-Poaching and Compatible Land Use in the Community Lands of Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools Transboundary Conservation Area’ project from 2018 – 2021.

The EU funded this program with €1.2 million and AWF contributed an additional €300 000 as co-financing.

“The EU has been a key funding partner for AWF, supporting community development work and biodiversity conservation programs in Mbire District. AWF’s landscape approach has been focused on improving livelihoods of the people living with wildlife,” said Olivia Mufute, AWF country director.

 

The project was designed to reduce illegal wildlife trade and habitat conversion in the Lower Zambezi Mana Pools Landscape.

At Mbire Rural District Council, the EU Heads of Cooperation engaged with the local government authorities, officials from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARKS), Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Forestry Commission, government and UN agencies, CBOs and other partners.

Through the EU grant, Mbire district council trained fishing cooperatives in Kanyemba, trained 75 scouts at Mushandike Training Center and reviewed and updated the Natural Resources Management Plan of 2011 to 2021 into a Land Use Plan for the district.

The district also got support for bee keeping, women entrepreneurship, human wildlife conflict mitigation through training farmers and game scouts on use of chilli pepper technology to repel elephants.

The EU also supported efforts to promote transboundary collaboration among law enforcement officers and local communities from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.

“We also received equipment for wildlife conservancy maintenance, patrols and Problem Animal Control and support in terms of transboundary and collaboration support,” said Tarcisius Mahuni, Mbire RDC environment executive office.

Beneficiaries of AWF projects implemented in the landscape narrated how their livelihoods were changing.

“I want to thank AWF for several scout training it facilitated, uniforms, anti-poaching equipment and patrol rations it provided us during the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Shylet Mugonapanja, a community wildlife scout in Mbire District.

According to a research conducted by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), between 2016 and 2021 HWC cases rose by 300 percent – from 619 to 1 598.

More than 72 lives were lost in human-wildlife conflicts in Zimbabwe in 2021 and by August this year alone, 46 people were killed in HWC cases mainly in Mashonaland West province.

Regionally, Zimbabwe has the highest numbers of deaths from human-wildlife conflict while in Botswana, there are significantly less deaths, although they have more elephants at almost 130 000.

Wildlife experts say completely eradicating human-wildlife conflict is not possible but that well-planned, integrated approaches to managing it can reduce conflicts and lead to a form of coexistence between people and animals.

They say such approaches require work on prevention, mitigation, response, research and monitoring all backed by strong policy support and the participation of local communities.

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