Plans to launch Human-Wildlife Conflict Relief Fund underway Wildlife

Leonard Ncube, [email protected]

PLANS are underway to officially operationalise the Human-Wildlife Conflict Relief Fund before April this year as part of the commitment to protecting and compensating communities affected by wild animals.

Cabinet approved the establishment of the fund for victims of human-wildlife conflict following proposals by the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife Management. 

This followed countrywide consultations with communities affected by human-wildlife conflict where villagers implored the Government to establish a compensation fund for families of victims of attacks by wildlife and those that lose property and livestock, as well as those that are injured.

Once set up, the fund will help to cover funeral assistance for casualties of human-wildlife conflict, hospitalisation and treatment for those injured, and support programmes that reduce deaths caused by animals and support affected families and communities.

With the continued increase in wildlife population, especially elephants, cases of human-wildlife conflict have become prevalent mainly in areas near game parks like in Hwange and Tsholotsho, Binga, Lupane and Bubi in Matabeleland North.

Other communities around Mana Pools in Mashonaland West, Gonarezhou in the Low Veld, Bulilima and Matopo in Matabeleland South are also affected.

Speaking in Mabale, Hwange last Friday, Environment Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said “serious” mobilisation of resources is underway as the Government wants the fund to be well-resourced and sustainable.

Hwange National Park

He was in Mabale for the annual community engagement on environment, climate and wildlife with traditional leaders and the community.

Villagers expressed concern over the prevalence of conflict with wildlife, loss of property and lives, injuries and disturbance to social activities and lack of compensation.

Minister Ndlovu said Hwange is a special case because Hwange National Park is one of the biggest sanctuaries in the world.

He said because of sustainable wildlife conservation strategies, Zimbabwe has the fastest growing elephant population in Hwange with the recent Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area aerial survey showing there are   more than 65 000 jumbos in Hwange National Park and surrounding protected areas, which exceed its carrying capacity.

This is why the Government is emphasising the importance of protecting people and in his opening of the 2024 Cabinet, President Mnangagwa emphasised to ministers that whatever policies they make should be informed by people as key and primary beneficiaries.

Minister Ndlovu said the growing wildlife population puts pressure on Hwange communities that endure conflict with animals over grazing land and water.

“The question is, how are we making sure we provide comfort to these people because they are in the frontline in defending our wildlife from poaching and mostly exposed to conflict?” said the minister.

“We announced last year the approval of the human-wildlife conflict fund by Cabinet and now what we are working on is for the fund to have seed capital for it to formally launch. 

“We want to get to a point where it has enough funding and we believe by the end of April we should have launched it. We are having sleepless nights because of this fund as we want to have it launched and we are even planning to have some fundraising in the near future to get seed capital.”

Minister Ndlovu said Zimbabwe has studied similar models in Namibia, Zambia and Tanzania and would want to avoid a false start to the fund.

He commended Hwange Rural District Council for having a special council resolution to provide relief to victims of human-wildlife conflict where the council has over the years assisted those attacked by animals and funeral expenses for the victims.

“We don’t want the fund to be overwhelmed prematurely, so we agreed that we will prioritise human beings for starters. The fund will help those injured until full recovery,” said Ndlovu. 

“We want to make sure we try and assist them and also funeral expenses. We are not yet at a stage of compensating but we want it to grow to a point where we can have health centres where people will be treated rather than to wait to have them carried elsewhere. 

“The fund will help in full equipment of those hospitals. We want to get to a point where people will look at animals and  see value, which is why we need strategies that will surely show our communities the value of wildlife,” said Minister Ndlovu.

Hwange RDC has 20 wards and 18 of them face human-wildlife conflict. Animals also stray into Hwange urban and Victoria Falls urban.

Communities have also expressed concern over the failure by the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (Campfire) to compensate them for losses caused by wildlife.

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