Solutions for animals through community partnerships: India, Kenya, Malawi

An elephant family group on the banks of Liwonde's Shire River drinking water.At the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), we recognize we have a special role in bringing together people caring about animals and people who live in communities around critical animal habitats. In most regions where we find intense animal suffering or population loss, we also find people who are struggling for their very survival.

This situation is particularly acute in the case of people living near endangered wildlife populations. Unless we take the plight of communities living in and around national wildlife reserves seriously, unless we can involve communities in meaningful conservation efforts, we will fail to protect wildlife over the long term.

That’s why at IFAW, we work for solutions that benefit both animals and people.

A few recent IFAW projects demonstrate this concept in action:

 IFAW staffer Mike Labuschagne meeting with a local Malawi chief.As one of Africa’s poorest countries, Malawi’s national parks are an important source of tourism income, but the government has no resources to support park management; IFAW is working with the Malawian Department of National Parks and Wildlife to create a model program in Liwonde National Park that may be replicated in other areas.

We are improving park security and reducing human-elephant conflict while at the same time addressing critical community needs such as employment and food security through programs including a fish farming project due to open this month.

IFAW and Wildlife Trust of India have been working for years to rescue orphaned elephants and rhinos and release them in Manas National Park. We have also been working with the local communities to secure park habitat from poaching and other harmful activities. For example, in May, to help reduce tree-felling in Greater Manas National Park, India, we helped to install improved cooking stoves in local households in the region.

With these stoves installed in 182 households so far, around 2,500 trees may be saved annually, as fuel consumption is reduced by about one kilogram per person per day. This improves the lives of the local communities and preserves the habitat for all.

In Amboseli National Park in Kenya, home to the most famous elephant populations in Kenya, most of the critical habitat used by wildlife falls outside of the park boundaries. Over the years the establishment of Masaai “Group Ranches” around the borders of Amboseli has threatened this critical habitat from the establishment of villages and small farms, and large herds of cattle. Elsewhere, the threats of mining and commercial farming are very real.

That’s why IFAW signed a historic lease agreement with the community of the Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) at Amboseli. This agreement sets aside 16,000 acres of land called the “Kitenden Corridor”.

Nearly 1,600 Maasai landowners, each of whom has signed a share certificate agreeing to the lease of the land, have become our partners in conservation, securing income from the lease that will provide for their families while at the same time protecting land necessary for healthy elephant populations.

These are but a few of the recent examples of IFAW’s commitment to engaging local communities in developing sustainable conservation solutions over the long-term.

This on the ground work not only makes real impact but also serves as a model for an approach applicable by IFAW, other non-profit organizations, governments and communities as we look for practical solutions that help us build a more humane world.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia