Malawi: Associations Taking Enviable Strides in Enhancing Wildlife Conservation

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Resolute in helping conserve Kasungu National Park, Kasungu Wildlife Conservation for Community Development Association (KAWICCODA) is implementing a MK300 million project, seeking to enhance food and income securities of the people around the park.

Funded by Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Programme, interventions under the project include growing of high value crops, goat rearing and promoting household level woodlots, among others.

There is also a revenue sharing agreement between KAWICCODA and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) over the management of the park, with the association getting 25 percent of the profit from the tourism business, which it also invests in community empowerment enterprises.

KAWICCODA executes the interventions through its well-structured organogram, which, from top to bottom, comprises the following: a board of trustees, a 12-member executive committee, nine zone committees under nine Traditional Authorities (TAs) and 160 Village Natural Resources Committees (VNRCs).

Board Chairperson, Malidadi Langa, says the aim is co-management of Kasungu National Park with DNPW and “proving the contribution of working together as communities at all levels” in conserving the park.

Langa says the structures are “well-coordinated and networked” to effectively help implement community empowerment interventions and solve wildlife problems, including human-wildlife conflicts.

“The result is increased awareness and behaviour change towards wildlife in the park as our natural resource and our heritage and our identity. There is increased understanding that this is our own resource we can benefit from.

“There is also a decrease in actual negative coping behaviours towards conservation and deliberate or unknowingly encroaching into the park, for people now know this is a crime. They value the park, resulting in increased numbers of wildlife, among other visible benefits”.

KAWICCODA is part of a success story involving nine community-led associations co-managing Malawi’s national parks and wildlife reserves, found to be such well-organized and prudent structures, useful in sustaining the protected areas and wildlife.

Others on the spotlight are Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve Association (NAWIRA) and Majete Wildlife Reserve Association (MWRA).

With inherent organograms–comprising village, zone and executive committees and boards, among others–the nine associations are anchored in the National Wildlife Policy as organs of community participation to benefit from conservation of parks and wildlife reserves they surround.

Established under the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, the associations help govern enterprises and interventions that economically empower communities to refrain from committing wildlife crimes.

MWRA, on the other hand, has 21 community-based organizations, above these are four zone committees under TAs Kasisi, Mwanza and Chapananga, then an executive committee and a board of trustees.

Davis Fredson Kaliza, Chairperson, says African Parks, which manages Majete Wildlife Reserve, uses these structures when providing health and education infrastructure and scholarships, among other community benefits.

According to Kaliza, the association annually gets 50 percent of the profit from a Game Capture Community Campsite inside the reserve, which attracts scores of tourists. MWRA, which invests the money in community development, got at least MK15 million in 2023 alone.

“Our aim is to ensure equal benefit sharing among the locals for their contribution to reduction of poaching, among other wildlife crimes. So, among other things, we build Community-Based Childcare Centres, under five clinics and school shelters.

“We also invest, for instance, in goat and chicken pass on and bee keeping, targeting at least 5000 households every year, which improves their livelihoods to stay away from poaching, encroachment and other wildlife crimes”.

NAWIRA’s organogram is similar to KAWICCODA’s, except that this association has much more VNRCs and 18 zone committees under 14 TAs around Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. These structures implement community empowerment enterprises alongside African Parks, which manages the reserve.

The Kulera Landscape REDD+ Program–signed for a 30-year period between DNPW, US based Terra Globe and Total Land Care to generate and sell Verified Emission Reductions (VER)–earns NAWIRA at least MK150 million every two years, which it invests in community livelihoods improvement.

Chairperson, Crosby Gome, says the association, therefore, implements a farm inputs program through which it lends out seeds of high value crops to farmers.

“We lend out bean, soya and groundnut seeds and cassava cuttings, targeting 50 farmers per zone every year. Each farmer gets 20 kgs and returns 25 kgs to us so that we help other farmers in the same area in the next farming season.

“We also have a livestock pass on initiative involving chickens, goats and pigs. For instance, last year, we distributed 120 goats to 60 people, each received 2 goats. We also distributed 100 treadle pumps for irrigation”.

Other associations are: Mangochi-Salima Lake Park Association, Nyika Vwaza Association, Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve Association, Elephant Marsh Association, Lengwe Marsh Association and Upper Shire Association for the Conservation of Liwonde National Park.

The nine associations have mostly similar organograms and operation trajectory and achieving the same objective, resulting in the formation of Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Forum, a national umbrella body of all wildlife associations, aimed at enhancing the work and sustainability of the associations.

Joseph Nkosi, Ministry of Tourism Spokesperson, says the government, through DNPW, sees these associations as valuable partners to help with public education and awareness for conservation, hence they ought to be sustained.

“They are crucial as they offer various benefits including collaboration and advocacy. Their local knowledge proves crucial in addressing human-wildlife conflicts.

“The ministry is highly committed to sustaining revenue sharing agreements with KAWICCODA, Nyika Vwaza and other associations, for these agreements recognize the critical role associations play in conservation and tourism success”.

John Adendorff, Park Manager for Majete Wildlife Reserve, says “the mutually beneficial partnership between MWRA and African Parks is a very successful program, which satisfies communities and requires sustaining, more especially the association”.

“Consequently, Malawians are now proud of Majete as an incredible model, showing communities and conservationists working hand in hand while benefiting from the conservation happening around this place”.