By Emmanuel Koro in Johannesburg, SA
ZAMBIA’s Green Economy and Environment Minister Hon. Collins Nzovu has confirmed that international hunting is benefitting communities as well as supporting wildlife and habitat conservation in his country.
Minister Nzovu’s confirmation of international hunting’s socio-economic benefits to Zambian communities as well as its support towards wildlife and habitat conservation comes at a time when the British Government is being pressurised by the anti-hunting animal rights groups there to demonise international hunting and ban hunting trophy imports worldwide, including hunting trophies of Africa’s big five. Accordingly, Minister Nzovu has warned that any future trophy hunting imports bans would take away international hunting benefits from the African hunting communities and also remove incentives for community wildlife and habitat conservation in Zambia and Africa. He said that Zambian hunting communities have continued to benefit from international hunting under a ‘50-50’ hunting revenue benefit-sharing arrangement with the Zambian government. Minister Nzovu said that the other socio-economic benefits include the “…construction of schools in hunting communities.”
“We have 50-50 share between communities (hunting communities) and the Government,” said Minister Nzovu, adding that the 50-50 international hunting revenue benefit-sharing arrangement is supported by a Zambian government statutory instrument.
Meanwhile, local and international observers continue to warn that “…without international hunting benefits, the rural communities all over Africa will see no value in wildlife and would rather collaborate with poachers to kill the continent’s big game, such as rhinos, elephants, leopards, lions and buffaloes.”
“We can only encourage them (countries that want to ban international hunting) to learn from the people who are doing and have done it (international hunting),” said Minister Nzovu. If they (anti-international hunting countries) feel that they don’t get any key learning from it, they should learn from the people who are co-existing with wildlife (African hunting communities).”
One of Zambia’s most stunning mindset-changing hunting benefits during the 21st Century were recently experienced in the South Luangwa community that opted to accept a previously taboo culture of family planning so that they could prevent human overpopulation that would result in them taking up wilderness land set aside for wildlife hunting and conservation.
Elsewhere in Zambia, the international hunting benefits have also enhanced the anti-poaching culture in Zambian rural communities of Kazungula District, right in the heart of the world’s richest wildlife area, the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).
In a recent interview, Roy Seemani, acting ranger of Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife, in charge of Mulombedzi and Sichifulo Game Management Area (GMA), said that the local communities “…have continued to show a progressive shift towards wildlife and habitat conservation, incentivised by hunting benefits.”
“Local communities’ perceptions towards wildlife are much better compared to the previous years when they used to poach wildlife because it didn’t bring benefits to them,” said Seemani.
He said that the hunting companies ‘help create employment’ in the hunting communities.
They sign contracts that make it mandatory for them to ensure they employ 30 percent of people from local communities, pay for wildlife resources monitoring in order to evaluate the use and conservation of resources, including fire management.
The companies also pay for anti-poaching operations. “Some of the hunting revenue is also used to support community livelihoods, including the construction of community clinics and schools” said Seemani. Meanwhile, the Zambian hunting communities, including other Southern African hunting communities have started warning that the UN should never hope to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 as long as its member-countries, such as the British Government, continue to oppose international hunting that clearly contributes towards the achievement of SDGs through wildlife and habitat conservation and poverty alleviation as well as through supporting socio-economic development opportunities in African countries’ hunting communities, including employment creation for game rangers.
The Southern African hunting communities also say: “It’s a violation of African people’s rights to talk about animal rights without also talking about human rights and needs. It’s double standards and hypocritical for Western governments to speak in favour of poverty alleviation in Africa but ironically blocking such opportunity by banning the means towards achieving it – wildlife trade, including international hunting.”
However, there is still hope to achieve SDGs in Africa if there is no external interference on how the continent should benefit from its wildlife resources.
“SDGs are doable if there is political will at domestic level,” said Minister Nzovu, seemingly hinting that Zambia has no control over the external factors that can fail the achievement of SDGs in Africa, such as the British Government’s trophy hunting imports ban Bill.
“So I have actually observed that in Africa, we are slowly getting that political will from us the politicians and letting other people drive the economy to achieve SDGs.”
Zambia’s quiet diplomacy in its efforts to convince the Western countries and animal rights groups to stop their trophy hunting imports ban dictatorship in Africa ended when it broke its silence in May 2021. In May 2021, the director of the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Dr Chuma Simukonda, questioned why Western countries’ lawmakers continue to pursue trophy hunting import bans without consulting African countries.
His question put a spotlight on the unwelcome Western dictatorship of wildlife management in Africa, including the attempts to ban international hunting.
“It is unfortunate that such efforts, promoted in the name of African species, lack any input from Africans and are grounded on a protectionist mentality contrary to the sustainable-use model that has proven so successful in Zambia and much of Southern Africa,” said Dr Simukonda.
“Zambia’s wildlife is already stable without such ill-informed legislation (to ban international hunting). Our wildlife management system is based on science, adaptation and community empowerment.”
About 12 months later, in 2022, Minister Nzovu has repeated the call not to ban trophy hunting imports from his country and the African continent as this would not only harm wildlife and habitat conservation but also negatively impact on the socio-economic wellbeing of hunting communities.
“We are all sovereign States,” said Minister Nzovu. “So it all depends on what you want to do with your particular resource. So, for those particular countries (anti-international hunting countries) we would encourage them to understand that the beneficiation that we are getting are also going to the communities, wildlife and habitat conservation.”
He said that the world should learn about international hunting benefits from the communities that make wildlife and habitat conservation sacrifices. “These communities are the ones that let go of their pieces of land so that we create space for protected areas, be it national parks, forestry and game management areas,” said Minister Nzovu.
Emmanuel is Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who writes independently on environment and development issues in Africa.