Why Would a Wildlife Conservancy Engage in Community Development?
The greatest potential challenge for wildlife conservation is gaining the support of local people, who will not only share their land but will be motivated to offer their support.
In this area, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is known as a groundbreaking model. By directing the benefits of our success to helping our neighbours, Lewa has helped alleviate poverty, and created enthusiasm among communities for wildlife conservation.
Many people around Lewa live in extreme poverty – on less than $1 a day. It is the poor themselves who understand first-hand the causes, nature and extent of these conditions. Our values reflect this reality: empowerment & participation; transparency, openness, & accountability; and equality.
Lewa has influenced incredible changes in seven of the communities directly surrounding the Conservancy. We focus on seven core components to create sustainable, conservation-friendly economic growth:
- Community Healthcare: Lewa’s three clinics are the closest medical centres within 25 kilometres, shouldering up to 90% of the needs of staff and communities.
The clinics offer diagnosis & treatment in reproductive, preventative, and mental health; including education for HIV/AIDS, family planning, and hygiene
- Community Water Management: Projects include springs conservation and water distribution for agriculture, domestic use, and livestock.Lewa has implemented irrigation programmes in six communities, improving living standards for over 15,000 people
- The Women’s Micro Credit Programme: There are eight women’s groups in Lewa’s communities, boasting over 800 participants in the programme.
Local women access funds as small as US $65 which help them start their own businesses and lift their families out of poverty
- Community Forestry: Rural women spend up to 20 hours per week collecting firewood. To assist these women, and discourage deforestation, Lewa has started tree nurseries in several communities
- Agricultural Development: Through hands-on training, local farmers share techniques that preserve soil quality and biodiversity.
Communities participate in agricultural projects for more efficient farming and grazing
- Social Development: People register as self-help groups, building a collective identity that carries them through tough times, such as crop failure.
Successful income-generating projects include: daily goat-keeping, making bales of hay, and bee-keeping which deters elephant from entering their property
- The Lewa Youth Programme: A high proportion of young people struggling with nationwide unemployment are engaged to create youth-led projects. Linking our future leaders with government funding, Lewa provides youth with the opportunity for self-directed, self-driven endeavors especially in sports
The Benefits are Twofold:
For the communities, Lewa’s programmes mean decreased poverty, increased health, education and employment; as well as greater security in areas that were once threatened by bandits and poachers.
For wildlife and the Conservancy, the community’s support brings increased security as well. With the changed perceptions of local people, the protection and conservation of wildlife is a source of desperately needed income rather than poaching for rhino horn.