Harare: The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Zimbabwe hosted 8 European Union (EU) Heads of Cooperation and Deputy Ambassadors in MbireDistrict from 21-24 November 2022 amid efforts to showcase successful project implementation undertaken under the 2018-2021 EU LOZA funding and intensifying donor engagement.
The EU Delegation comprised of Eva Van Woersem ; The Netherlands Deputy Ambassador, Head of Cooperation ;Anne Bourdy, France Deputy Ambassador, Head of Cooperation ; Michel Ott, Germany Deputy Ambassador, Head of Cooperation ; Bertholet Kaboru, Sweden Head of Cooperation ; Bernard De Schrevel, EU Team Leader ; DavidPalacios, EU Programme Manager ; Felix Engdahl, Sweden Researcher and Katharina Huebner, GIZ Representative.
The AWF partnership with Conservation Lower Zambezi, the Zambezi Society, and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) implemented the ‘Partnership for Improved Anti-Poaching and Compatible Land Use in the Community Lands of Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools Transboundary Conservation Area’ project from 2018-2021. The EU funded this program with €1.2 million and AWF contributed an addition €300 000 as co-financing.
“The EU has been a key funding partner for AWF, supporting community development work and biodiversity conservation programs in Mbire District. AWF’s landscape approach has been focused on improving livelihoods of the people living with wildlife,” says Olivia Mufute, AWF Country Director.The project was designed to reduce illegal wildlife trade and habitat conversion in the Lower Zambezi Mana Pools Landscape.
At Mbire Rural District Council, the EU Heads of Cooperation engaged with the local government authorities, officials from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARKS), Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Forestry Commission, Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services (AGRITEX), Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ministry of Social Welfare/Development, development partners including United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) and Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF), Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme, (ZAGP), councilors and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) including the Lower Guruve Development Association (LGDA).
“Through AWF’s support under the EU grant, we managed to train all fishing cooperatives in Kanyemba, train 75 scouts at Mushandike Training Center, recruit 5 female scouts who at one point got support in form of monthly allowances during the COVID-19 period, review and update the Natural Resources Management Plan of 2011 to 2021 into a Land Use Plan for the district, secure a wildlife migratory corridor, reduce deforestation through training farmers on bee keeping and training women on entrepreneurship, participated in human wildlife conflict mitigation through training farmers and game scouts in Ward 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12 and 16 on use of chilli pepper technology to repel elephants and promote transboundary collaboration among law enforcement official and local communities from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique,” said Mr Mahuni, Executive Officer, Natural Resources Management, Mbire Rural District Council at a meeting with EU Heads of Cooperation. “We also received equipment for wildlife conservancy maintenance, patrols and Problem Animal Control and support in terms of transboundary and collaboration support.”
The EU Heads of Cooperation also engaged with Environmental Sub-Committee members, chilli farmers, male and female scouts, chiefs, village headmen and youth representatives in Kanyemba and Masoka where they had an opportunity to ask questions pertaining the interventions that were implemented by AWF in the landscape.
“The world leaders are currently discussing climate change at COP27, and this is also a Zimbabwe-EU shared priority. We came to Mbire and we see now its impact and consequences at local level. In addition, those consequences are here aggravated by human-wildlife conflict. We need to understand the reality and the challenges faced at ward level in order to inform the decisions to be taken. ” said Bernard de Schrevel, EU Team Leader.
Beneficiaries of AWF projects implemented in the landscape took turns to narrate how their lives were transformed through AWF’s interventions in the landscape.
“I want to thank AWF for several scout trainings it facilitated, uniforms, anti-poaching equipment and patrol rations during the COVID 19 pandemic, Shylet Mugonapanja, a female community wildlife scout, Mbire District said. “I also got monthly allowances from AWF during the COVID-19 pandemic that I used to build my own house, paid school fees for my children and bought goats as an alternative livelihood option. My life has positively changed, and I am inspiring other young females to aspire to be community wildlife scouts.”
On Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) mitigation using chillipepper technology, one of the lead farmers in Kanyemba Simon Dumba said: “Through AWF, we were taught the entire process of chilli farming from nursery establishment, chillifarming in the field as well as harvesting; as a result of the knowledge, in 2021, I got 23 x 50kg bags of chilli pepper and bought building material for my house from the money that I got from selling my harvest.”
76-year-old Dumba also inspired other farmers to follow his footsteps after they realized that chilli is part of the solutions to HWC and provides a source of income. Some of the farmers who were inspired by Dumba include Maxwell Makechemu who sold his first chilli pepper harvest in October 2022 and Howard Makechemu who is embarking on chillifarming for the first time in 2022.
Meanwhile, Ngwena Fishing Cooperative representative Frank Mwanza underscored the importance of AWF’s intervention in the landscape citing that: “With the coming in of AWF, we were helped a lot as we managed to secure access to a 15 km stretch along the mighty Zambezi River to conduct fishing activities, we got boats and fishermen continue to use infrastructure constructed by AWF funding and technical assistance during the previous project.