By Emmanuel Koro in Johannesburg, SA
IN Africa, some communities still don’t have a single person who has graduated from medical school.
The reasons are many.
It could be a lack of funds for brilliant children to further their education.
In some very unfortunate situations, it can just be a case of not having high-achievers coming from those communities.
The unthinkable rural benefits from a wildlife hunting revenue-built school in Zimbabwe’s wildlife-rich Mid-Zambezi Valley were revealed by a Masoka hunting community representative, Ishmael Chaukura, this month.
Right from the ‘belly’ of the poor Masoka community popped out two medical doctors; from the hunting-revenue-built Masoka School.
Now we know who they are.
One of them has impressively narrated how he personally benefitted from learning at a hunting revenue-built Masoka School.
For the two medical doctors, now working in the country’s capital Harare, and adding great value to badly needed medical services at a time when most of them are opting to work abroad, it was not just a case of learning at a school built using wildlife revenue.
According to one of the medical doctors, Dr Knowledge Fero, after completing their education at Masoka School, he and the other medical doctor further benefitted from wildlife hunting revenue that Masoka Community used to pay their university fees at the University of Zimbabwe.
Masoka’s historic wildlife revenue powered production of medical doctors starting with the graduation of its first medical doctor, Goodluck Fero.
No doubt that he must have inspired the Masoka community, especially his brother Knowledge Fero, who, years later, also became a medical doctor.
Apart from producing medical doctors, Masoka School has produced teachers, professional hunters, accountants, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, businesspeople and health workers such as nurses who not only have lifted themselves out of poverty, but are also contributing towards the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe.
This seems to be a development wish list for most African rural communities, especially those not benefitting from hunting revenue.
“It’s true,” said Dr Knowledge Fero.
“I learnt at Masoka, a school that was built from hunting revenue under the Zimbabwe Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE). “The Masoka School is testament for all to see and change their perceptions towards wildlife conservation.”
He said his community’s benefits from CAMPFIRE wildlife hunting revenue ‘are not only limited to Masoka School and teachers’ houses but include other infrastructure such as road rehabilitation, widening and bridge construction’.
Doctor Knowledge Fero said that before the coming in of wildlife hunting revenue and conservation, Masoka was not accessible at all – it was totally off the world grid.
The wildlife revenue linked them to the rest of the world with US$30 000 having been used to construct the first-ever road, effectively linking Masoka to the rest of the country and no doubt the world.
Previously, villagers had to walk 50km to the nearest bus stop.
Before they started benefitting from hunting revenue, the remote, hot and dry Masoka area, near Kanyemba on Zimbabwe’s north-eastern border with Zambia and Mozambique, didn’t offer much hope for local residents. They continued to pay for the costs of living with wildlife as marauding elephants and other wildlife often ruined their few crops, killed their livestock and often killed their loved ones, including breadwinners.
Fortunately, the developments brought by hunting revenue dumped this unbearable suffering into the dustbin of history.
“We have built ourselves this clinic, drilled the boreholes and built the teachers’ houses, Masoka School and more,” said Masoka headman Kanyurira in a recent interview.
Poaching is also now history as Masoka residents continue to enjoy benefits from wildlife and other natural resources in the area.
The benefits from wildlife have made them appreciate the need to become actively involved in wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation.
Other wildlife use benefits enjoyed by Masoka include the employment creation of the youth through working as rangers and also working with safari operators and the construction of a clinic.
For Masoka, hunting revenue also brought fun with some of it having been used to support sporting activities, such as soccer.
It created skills development and entrepreneurship opportunities and was used to fund sewing projects for women.
Doctor Knowledge Fero fondly remembers: “At year ends, people would get dividends as bonuses for being part of the conservation initiatives.
“The benefits are many and for those who are opposed to wildlife use and conservation (the animal rights movement), I think they have no place in modern society because I am a living testimony of (wildlife hunting revenue benefits).
“Even as I was furthering my studies in medicine, wildlife proceeds would still be channelled towards my educational fees.
“I am very grateful.”
A Masoka community representative, Ishmael Chaukura, said that about 40 schools were built using wildlife revenue in Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE communities that cover 60 percent of the country’s total land area.
This shows that wildlife has great potential to continue uniquely making people born into poverty find escape through education.
Education is enabling them to contribute, not only towards the socio-economic development of their country Zimbabwe, but also for the improvement of their families.
Some of the graduates from other wildlife hunting revenue-built schools are working as Maths and English teachers in South Africa.
They include Rumbidzai Tapfuma from Chisunga Village in Mbire, Sam Chaukura from Masoka and Samson Assamu also from Masoka.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” said the late first President of independent South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
Meanwhile, Chaukura said only time was going tell if world leaders, who claim to support socio-economic developments in Africa, ‘can now allow education brought by trophy hunting to continue, by totally dismissing animal rights groups that are opposed to hunting out of ignorance’.
Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, said in an April 2013 statement: “Education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace. And in a knowledge economy, education is the new currency by which nations maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity.”
Therefore, one might conclude that only the people who want to harm the African people and their wildlife can suggest that hunting should be banned and sadly end the impressive educational benefits that hunting revenue is bringing to rural Africa.
Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning independent environmental journalist who writes extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.