People, livestock and wildlife living together harmoniously became a reality with the establishment of Simalaha Community Conservancy in western Zambia in 2012. Since then, not one animal has been poached. The resident community and game scouts make sure of it. read more
The Kavango Zambezi TFCA has many distinguishing features of global importance, among them the largest contiguous population of African elephant on the continent, numbering approximately a quarter of a million animals. Of significant benefit to both the local communities and this huge elephant population was the establishment of the Simalaha Community Conservancy in southwestern Zambia, spanning the Kazungula and Sisheke chiefdoms. Simalaha is one of Zambia’s first community conservancies and will be fundamental to re-establishing wildlife populations and their migration routes in KAZA TFCA. This benefits the community by increasing wildlife numbers, promoting tourism development and enhancing livelihood options. Thanks to Stichting Energo funding, matched by mostly free labour from the community, two staff houses were built in 2011 to accommodate teachers at Mwandi School in an attempt to attract better-quality teachers. A third teacher’s house was built in 2012 and a new borehole drilled to supply water to the three new houses.
In 2012, Peace Parks Foundation received a generous donation from the Swedish Postcode Lottery to develop a wildlife sanctuary in the Simalaha Community Conservancy and improve human rights, including food security, by training community members in better farming methods. Solar panels were also installed at local schools and clinics to provide electricity for lights.
The reestablishment of wildlife on the Simalaha Floodplains was initially proposed by the communities through their respective traditional leaders. Following extensive consultations, the communities of Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta and Chief Sekute declared that land should be dedicated to wildlife use for tourism development.
On 22 October 2012 the Simalaha Community Conservancy was officially launched by Chief Sekute of the Kazungula district and Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta of the Sisheke district. They also opened the conservancy offices at Mwandi Kuta. Following years of the depletion of wildlife, the first wildlife translocation to the Simalaha Community Conservancy took place on 6 October 2013.
Thanks to MAVA Fondation pour la Nature, 22 community members were trained as wildlife scouts. They also received uniforms, camping equipment, binoculars and hand-held radios. New equipment was also bought for general management and, specifically, to manage roads and fire-breaks.
The conservancy wildlife manager and the community wildlife scouts carried out regular patrols to monitor the wildlife. No incidents of poaching have been recorded since the animals were introduced into the fenced sanctuary in 2013. The wildlife scouts also do fence maintenance work in the field. Their work is overseen by a wildlife police officer.
A wildlife translocation programme was started in 2013, to develop the conservancy as a tourist destination and to re-establish wildlife populations and their migration patterns in the KAZA TFCA. In 2016, 12 puku and 20 blue wildebeest were brought in. In all, 563 head of game have been relocated to Simalaha. The animals have settled in well and are producing young.
Altogether 887 farmers have been trained over three seasons. Of these, 450 were also supported with donations of maize and other seeds, cassava cuttings, treadle pumps and manure. The conservancy took first prize at the Mwandi District show, despite the severe drought that southern Africa suffered this year. A further 60 farmers with access to water grow irrigated crops. They’re also assisted with seeds, manure and treadle pumps. The agriculture project has ensured food security for an estimated 4 700 people. In a survey conducted in December, 83% of the farmers surveyed reported improved quality and quantity of their harvests and 87% intend to continue with conservation agriculture.
Watch the video on the Simalaha wildlife translocation and conservation agriculture projects, made for SABC's 50/50 programme.