The Simalaha area, situated in south-western Zambia, falls within two chiefdoms, Sesheke and Chundu. Because of annual flooding, the area is mainly used for seasonal grazing. Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta and Chief Sekute of the Sesheke and Chundu chiefdoms agreed to establish the Simalaha Community Conservancy as a wildlife recovery area and a mechanism to stimulate benefits for the communities through wildlife and tourism development.
The Simalaha Community Conservancy, under their traditional leadership, has adopted a human rights-based approach for the communities living in the conservancy. The approach will focus on democracy, gender equality and empowerment by supporting environmental sustainability, accountability and participation. The communities will be allowed to manage their own natural resources in a sustainable way that will take into consideration economic, social, cultural and political human rights. In May 2012 Peace Parks Foundation secured funding by the Swedish Postcode Lottery, which donated SEK 10 million for the human rights project.
The human rights-based approach comprises three projects, namely:
The establishment of a wildlife sanctuary covering an area of 24 000 ha that involves both chiefdoms. The sanctuary will be used to relocate the seed stock of wildlife to where they can be properly protected and allow them to increase in numbers. A large and varied wildlife experience will result in more tourism that will generate much-needed income. Field rangers will also be trained in this area and an awareness programme for the communities will be launched to ensure ownership of the wildlife and the project as a whole. Once the animal numbers have increased sufficiently, the fences of the sanctuary will be removed to allow the wildlife to move into the bigger area. A game proof fence has been erected around the wildlife sanctuary thanks to funding by MAVA Foundation, the Swedish Postcode Lottery and the Cleveland Zoological Society. Local community members were identified to assist with the construction of the fence, which enabled them to earn a living for their families. Eighteen community members, including a number of these labourers, will be trained as field rangers. The field ranger training will be funded by the Cleveland Zoological Society. Two field ranger stations will be built in the sanctuary, one in each of the chiefdoms, as well as water wells to serve the stations. Two mobile stations will also be constructed to allow for mobile patrols;
Training in conservation agriculture to improve food security; and
Introduction of sustainable energy projects.
Implementation of these projects will allow the communities in the conservancy to manage their forests and wildlife resources in a sustainable fashion. Thanks to the training they will receive, they will gain a further understanding of the value of wildlife as a resource and conservation as a viable land-use option.