An assessment of community understanding of the Human Animal Conservancy Self-Insurance Scheme and the impact of human-wildlife conflicts : a case study from the Kwandu conservancy, north-east Namibia.
Kasaona, Marthin Kaukaha.
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The research problem of this mini-dissertation involves the conflicts between human and wildlife populations and the trialing of ‘compensation’ payouts that are emerging as a critical test within the conservancy. Crop raiders such as elephants, buffaloes, hippopotamus, bush pigs and small rodents, diminish farmers’ resource bases and cash crops, while carnivores are responsible for livestock losses. The aim of the research is to assess the level of community understanding of the compensation scheme and the impact of human wildlife interaction within the conservancy. This mini-dissertation investigated the level of community understanding about the Human Animal Conservancy Self-Insurance Scheme (HACSIS), and the impact of human-wildlife conflicts within the Kwandu Conservancy. Some of the research data were obtained from the conservancy game guards’ event book system, and the actual field research data were collected from the 1st August to 20th August 2006. The researcher conducted a total of 35 interviews, whereby 32 involved face-to-face interviews with single individuals, and 3 separate focus group discussions that consisted of four, five and two conservancy members. The interviews averaged 30 minutes in length. Each interview was preceded by a careful explanation of the purposes of the work, stressing that the intent was to evaluate their understanding and perceptions on HACSIS, the impact of human-wildlife conflicts and to explore better management strategies. The researcher has taken into account that the communities might exaggerate the wildlife problem based on his previous experience with the adjacent conservancy, in the hopes of gaining more compensation – they also use the researcher as a way to vent their frustration at the problem. On the assumption that there may be an element of exaggeration verification of these was obtained from the Event Book System (a manual book used by the Community Game Guards for recording both crops and livestock incidents on daily basis). This mini-dissertation reveals that 74.3 % (n = 26) of respondents are aware of the existence of the HACSIS program and its role, while 17.1 % of respondents had no idea about the scheme’s presence and its involvement to minimize the impact felt by communities when they lose livestock to predators. The percentage of respondents who claimed that they had heard of the scheme’s existence but had no knowledge of its role was 8.6 %. In addition, most respondents (n = 15) claimed that the conservancy committee did not explain to them why their claim forms were rejected. In contrast, some respondents (n = 6) did received feedback on rejected claim forms. HACSIS was not formed to compensate livestock losses based on market value, nor was it intended as a ‘compensation’ scheme. Its aim was to test a conservancy-run process – local verification of claims and monitoring by conservancy committee and traditional authority. In addition, the authorization of payments for a type of ‘self-insurance’ is drawn from conservancy income to partially offset the losses of conservancy members versus the overall gains that wildlife brings to the conservancy (direct conservancy income and local jobs through tourism, trophy hunting, own use game harvesting). Conservancy committees and the support NGO, IRDNC, agreed on the amount to be refunded for animal losses before the scheme was started, initially using donor funding in the trial phases. The amount was deliberately kept low as it was acknowledged from the start that conservancies themselves would take over the repayments from their own income. Once the conservancy was used to its own income to finance the scheme, conservancy members could vote to increase amounts paid for predator losses. The crucial aspect, according to IRDNC, was that the process itself be tested and that the scheme be run by the conservancy, with Ministry of Environment and Tourism and IRDNC merely monitoring and providing assistance as needed. Compensation is based on this pre-determined amount that is less than the livestock value. However, the research reveals that respondents (n = 19) were dissatisfied with the amount paid (N$ 800-00 per ox killed), because they claim that the amount paid to relieve the immediate impact from wildlife is too little to sustain the affected member. In contrast, some respondents (n = 8) were satisfied with the amount paid as compensation. Despite criticisms about the amount paid for livestock losses, none of the respondents (n = 22) who were familiar with the scheme wanted it to be abolished. The respondents emphasized the need for the conservancy committee to review the amount paid as compensation, especially for cattle. They suggested an increase from the current N$ 800-00 to N$ 1000-00 per ox loss. The research reveals that community livestock management practices have not changed to deliberately benefit from the compensation. In fact community management strategies have improved because of the condition set by the review committee dealing with the compensation scheme. Wildlife incidents have increased because animals are habituated to techniques used by communities to deter them and this has contributed to high livestock incidents. For human-wildlife conflicts, the research acknowledges that the conflict exists. Between 2003-2005, the Kwandu Conservancy reported 1508 incidents of damage to crops by wildlife. Species that were responsible included elephants with 30.2 % damage, bush pigs (29.8 %), hippopotamus (12.7%), antelopes (12.7 %), porcupine (7.5 %), and baboons/monkeys (7.2 %). Most of the crops destroyed by crop raiders, as suggested by the respondents, were maize (30 %), sorghum (26 %), millet (17 %), groundnuts (14 %), pumpkins (8 %) and beans (5%). During the same period of crop losses, the conservancy reported 98 livestock incidents. Animals responsible for livestock incidents were crocodile with 32 incidents (32.7 %), then hyena (23 incidents, 23.5 %), leopard (22 incidents, 22.4 %) and lion (21 incidents, 21.4%). The role of community game guards was found to be extensive. From a total 35 responses, 74.3 % (n = 26) of members stated that community game guards effectively record incidents, chased problem-causing animals from the community crop fields by shouting or shooting in the air, and assessed or verified killed livestock for compensation purposes. In addition, community game guards conduct crop assessment for record-keeping purposes. The scheme for crop compensation is to be introduced in 2007. Currently there is no proper formula to use in assessing the value of crops and the method to use to compensate the affected members. Other methods used by communities to deter wildlife include sleeping in the field to guard crops, cracking a whip, construction of human statues, hanging tins on the fence, chilli coils, watchtowers and digging trenches. Respondents had different views on the best management practices for problem-causing animals. The response was generally based on the degree of threat that the animal posed. Most (43.8 %, n = 14) preferred the monitoring of problem-causing animals that are sighted in an area as a best practice, while 40.6 % (n = 13) of respondents preferred the animal to be captured and relocated to parks. Only 25.6 % (n = 5) of respondents preferred that the animal be destroyed. The management practices preferred by respondents when an animal kills a person are different from when an animal is simply sighted in the area. If an animal kills a person, only 12.5 % (n = 4) of respondents preferred that the animal be captured and relocated to parks, while 87.5 % (n = 28) of respondents preferred the problem-causing animal to be destroyed. None of the respondents suggested monitoring as the best management option for this degree of threat. In conclusion, the research revealed that Human Animal Conservancy Self Insurance Scheme does not treat the cause of the problem but the symptom. This approach does not decrease the level of the problem given that the cause of the problem is not addressed. Therefore, the researcher stressed the need to fully explore and implement the recent piloted lion, crocodile fencing, and elephant proof fencing and elephants chilli coil to address and reduce the problem within Kwandu Conservancy. In addition, the research revealed that the scheme has very lengthy delays before compensation is paid and the review panel does not arrange meetings on the stipulated dates. This causes a back-log in the number of claims that need to be reviewed and approved. On Human Wildlife Conflict the research findings recommend the need to strengthen and improve existing problem-causing animal management strategies that are in place. Innovative strategies include reducing the number of stray livestock at night and developing static fences. Communities should be advised, as is being done by IRDNC, to herd their livestock during the day and to build strong kraals. This is the most effective and cheapest way to prevent livestock from being taken by predators at night. Further more the research revealed that the combination and rotation of the methods yield high success rather than deploying a single method over a long period, for the prevention of crop losses methods include guarding the crop field, cracking a whip, shooting in the air, watchtowers, human statues and beating drums.
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