Elliot Ziwira Senior Reporter
The realities that human-wildlife conflicts bring can only be addressed through striking a balance between wildlife conservation and sustenance of livelihoods for communities in the affected areas, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has said.
Speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and a United States-based environmental organisation, WildAid, in Harare on Wednesday night, Minister Mutsvangwa said Zimbabwe should be allowed to benefit from its wildlife heritage.
After Botswana, Zimbabwe boasts of the largest elephant population in the world, and is home to the fourth highest number of black rhinos, yet the country cannot sell its ivory and related products due to restrictive measures on their trade.
“These numbers have not come by accident, but are testimony to the excellent conservation efforts by Zimbabwe,” said Minister Mutsvangwa. “These wildlife efforts have not come cheap, but have taken resources from our economy, even at a time the country is disabled by the sanctions that have been in place for the past 20 years.
“It is also sad to note that the growing animal population, while it has earned us praise across the globe, has come at the cost of the lives of our people due to human-wildlife conflict.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said international organisations like CITES have put in place punitive regulations that have made it difficult for Zimbabweans to reap rewards from their wildlife resources.
“We surely need a balance between wildlife conservation and sustainable livelihoods by those communities in the affected areas,” she said.
Through the partnership, Wild Aid will provide the ZBC with content which is envisaged to improve the quality of programming, particularly on human-wildlife conflict, wildlife issues and conservation.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the ZBC should take opportunities availed through the partnership “seriously and explore content opportunities in the wildlife sector.”
ZBC chief executive officer Adelaide Chikunguru said the national broadcaster was excited by the deal with WildAid, as it has shown that international content producers have faith in them.
“It gives us joy knowing that international producers have faith in ZBC. Our bouquet has changed to include a variety of programming, including game shows, reality, talk shows, dramas, children’s animation and conservation,” she said.
WildAid ambassador, Ms Rumbidzai Takawira, said the California-based non-governmental organisation has worked with different institutions in many countries across the world, including South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania.
“It is a communications-based organisation that helps governments across the world to deal with and manage the issue of wildlife crime, such as poaching,” she said. “So, it’s education-based, offering information to people on how they can maintain their environment, and protect their wildlife, especially endangered species.”
WildAid has also signed a MoU with the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS).
Other notable Zimbabwean ambassadors for the organisation are Jah Prayzah, Selmor Mtukudzi and Hollywood-based Danai Gurira.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Permanent Secretary, Mr Munesu Munodawafa, said the partnership between ZBC and WildAid will make the ministry’s “life easier” as the continuous conservation dialogue would “raise the relevant attention to a very important sector in the economy.”