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Community Benefits from Hunting

Focus on AWCF Host Botswana

Southern Africa is home to some of the world’s most amazing wildlife, landscapes, and ecosystems. Unfortunately, rural communities who are the original stewards and conservators of the land are often impacted by this wildlife, ignored by animal rights groups, and denied rights to manage their natural resources. The reality is that conservation of southern Africa’s wildlife and wild places is impossible without the participation and support of local communities; they must benefit, not hurt from wildlife. 

Human-wildlife conflict is on the rise, and is often a complicated and sensitive issue. Whether it is predators consuming livestock, elephants bulldozing homes and fields, or dangerous animals attacking humans, many rural Africans suffer physically, economically, or communally from living alongside the wildlife others only see on their TV screens. This is an unsustainable model for both humans and animals; without coexistence, inevitably one must win out over the other. 

In basic terms, hunting provides a coexistence solution by bringing people direct incentives to tolerate the inconveniences and dangers of living alongside wildlife. For example, while an elephant may damage a community water well, that same community will have much more tolerance for it if elephant hunting generates community funds for infrastructure and provides employment for the village. Without hunting, this same elephant would simply be a liability and safety hazard. 

Hunting provides enormous direct benefits to communities, in addition to the positive overall economic impact from hunting tourism. Hunting brings employment to entire villages as trackers, hunting guides, lodge staff, and anti-poaching rangers, who subsequently provide for their households. It also provides a reliable source of quality protein in the form of distributed game meats in areas with a lack of food sources. The benefit should not be downplayed, as it often is by hunting opponents, as the value of this meat distributed across communities is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to individual countries. Finally, through community-based programs, revenues from international hunting flow through community managed boards, trusts, or other financial vehicles to fund social service programs such as schools, healthcare, electricity and water, infrastructure, and many other sustainable development priorities. 

The numbers on these benefits from hunting are incredible. Depending on the country and their policies, communities receive either a majority or full percent of trophy fees on communal lands, which has totaled to tens of millions of dollars across southern Africa. The hunting industry directly provides well over 53,000 jobs in eight African countries, not including the multiplied effect of tourism-related and other jobs. In Zimbabwe alone, the CAMPFIRE program (funded 90% by hunting) benefits 25% of all households in the country. In Mozambique, the Tchuma Tchato community has seen improvements in the clean drinking water supply, road construction, emergency transport, and construction of a school. Hunting operators in Tanzania constructed two clinics and two medicine dispensaries, installed solar lighting and a solar water heater for a maternity ward, donated 254 sets of eyeglasses, treated 1,575 eye ailments, and established a network of Village Health Workers conducting monthly health clinics. In Zambia, approximately 130,000 kilograms of fresh game meat (worth ~$600,000) has been provisioned annually by the hunting industry to rural communities. These are just a few examples out of many; visit the 101 Facts section on SCI’s International Hunting page for a few more. Hunting operators are welcomed members of the communities. This is simply not the case with mass ecotourism companies, 

The annual SCI Foundation African Wildlife Consultative Forum is being hosted in Botswana this year. Botswana provides a unique perspective on the hunting issue in southern Africa and is a perfect example of both the benefits of hunting and the detrimental impact hunting bans have on community livelihoods. 

In 2014, the Government of Botswana imposed a hunting ban on public and communal lands, although it continued on private game ranches. Before the moratorium, 75% of revenues for community-based conservation came from hunting (approximately US$ 3 million in 2009 to 2010). This ban severely damaged rural communities, especially those which had depended on the hunting industry for food and livelihoods. The hunting moratorium caused some of the most successful community trusts to go bankrupt. Jobs, game meat, and community services were all lost, with a subsequent increase in poaching and human-wildlife conflict.  

Due to these consequences, combined with the rapidly increasing and wholly unsustainable elephant population (estimated at over 130,000), Botswana lifted the elephant hunting moratorium in 2019. The first season was to be held in 2020 but was postponed to April-September of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Botswana’s current President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, fully understands the realities of local communities and the necessity of hunting to conservation efforts. Watch his speech here.

Hunting is an irreplaceable component of conservation and human-wildlife coexistence which brings benefits to local communities and wildlife alike. Most importantly, wildlife must benefit the communities which live alongside it, and these communities must be given management over their resources and a voice. SCI and SCI Foundation are looking forward to discussing these and many other issues at the upcoming AWCF and continuing our work with African nations. SCI is always First For Hunters, a leader in worldwide conservation, and a constant advocate for local management. 

For more information, please visit the AWCF website and SCI’s International Hunting: Focus on Africa Page. And stay tuned for live action from Botswana! 

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