Liwonde - a success story!

Elephant grazing in Liwonde National Park, Malawi.

As elephants are moved from one of Malawi's most important national treasures, Liwonde National Park, to restock other reserves in Malawi, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) stands proud, having played an integral part in this success story over the years. 

IFAW started its work in Liwonde 15 years ago in support of efforts to combat poaching and mitigate human-elephant conflict.  Liwonde, an island in a sea of people, was under serious threat as poaching for ivory and bushmeat was on the increase in Africa. 

But, so too were the livelihoods of the subsistence farmers living adjacent to the park, who oftentimes had to deal with elephants raiding their crops or threatening their lives directly. 

IFAW stepped in to help secure the park and also set up a dedicated Fence Attendant System aimed at maintaining the integrity of the boundary fence, which helped to keep elephants in the park and out of people's crops.

But, as is the case with any conservation success story, engaging communities in incentive-based programmes is key to finding long-term, sustainable solutions that benefit both animals and people. 

READ: Flashback: resolving human and animal conflict in Malawi – how are the elephants today?

A few years ago, through extensive survey work, IFAW thus sought to engage communities with a view to finding cooperative and thus meaningful solutions to their problems.  Not only were the communities confronted with the challenge of crop-raiding by elephants, but they relied heavily on the Shire River inside the park as both a source of protein (through fishing) as well as water. 

IFAW worked with one community, the Chikolongo community, to develop a model that provided for access to water outside the park, as well as a revenue generation scheme (through a commercial, cooperative farming programme) to provide an income stream as an alternative to a reliance on fishing and poaching inside the park. 

The Chikolongo Community Project has been a huge success and is now at the stage where it can be replicated in other communities on the park's boundary. 

IFAW was very pleased with the Malawi Government's decision to hand over the management of Liwonde National Park to Africa Parks Network (APN) last year.  Having worked collaboratively with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) over the years to secure Liwonde, it is a huge relief to see the future of the park in such capable hands. 

IFAW remains committed to Malawi and is now working with DNPW to secure Kasungu National Park as part of an elephant landscape project linking Kasungu through to the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.

--JB

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