The Sustainable Wildlife Management Program breaks new ground in wildlife conservation and food security
BONN, Germany (September 2022) – In the Congo Basin, more than two million tonnes of wild meat – the equivalent of tens of millions of animals – are harvested every year.
Subsistence hunting is a vital and healthy source of protein and income for many indigenous and rural communities. However, as human populations grow, unsustainable levels of hunting are decimating wild animal populations in many areas – especially when wild meat is commercially hunted to be sold in the cities where it is found. Around 285 species of mammals worldwide are threatened with extinction, due to hunting of wild meats, which has devastating effects on cultural practices and the food security of those who depend on them. As we have seen internationally in recent years, the unregulated trade in wildlife can also pose significant risks for the emergence of zoonoses such as Covid-19 and smallpox.
The Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Program works in 13 countries on the African continent – and beyond – to develop holistic, multi-scale solutions to the problem of overexploitation. These include working on legal and institutional reforms, managing wildlife, providing alternative protein production, reducing demand for wild meat through behavior change campaigns, reducing human-wildlife conflict, and monitoring health risks. .
“We need to manage the use of wild species as a food source, looking at the full range of possible options, from pure conservation to domestication and sustainable use. We can’t just tell people who rely on wild meat as their main source of protein to stop eating meat without offering affordable, healthy alternatives,” said Robert Nasi, executive chairman of the Center for Forest Research (CIFOR) in September. 15 at the launch of the SWM Program 3D multimedia exhibition, which was part of the GLF Africa 2022 Digital Conference.
Stella Asaha, Site Coordinator for the SWM Program in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), shared some of the biggest challenges for wildlife conservation in the site area, which is located inside and outside the Okapi Wildlife Reserve – one of the the continent’s most diverse wildlife hotspots. The reserve occupies about a fifth of the Ituri forest and its resources are essential for local communities and indigenous peoples.
“The rich natural resources of this place, including underground resources, are a big challenge for us because they attract a lot of people,” said Asaha. So far, the SWM Program in DRC has focused on building knowledge about sustainable hunting and engaging with pilot communities on this topic through games, as well as using camera traps to learn more about current animal populations. The team also supports communities in developing alternative livelihoods and other sources of protein, such as palm seed production, bean cultivation and poultry. “One of our main achievements is involving communities in sustainable business,” she said. “And within the cities, we are establishing contacts with companies to increase the production of chickens.”
National Geographic photographer Brent Stirton shared his thoughts and experiences about the photographs he took and which are featured in the SWM Program’s virtual multimedia exhibition – which can be accessed free of charge on the program’s website along with various guides, training materials, publications and videos. “Food security is based on education at a certain level of coexistence”, he underlined, after his presentation. “The communities where we find people very dependent on this trade need to understand that it is not a movement against them; it is a movement that considers its future as well as the future of nature. So it’s very important to try to find that fundamental balance, and it’s not easy. But the more we talk about it, the more we can suggest alternatives, and the more trust can reign between these different groups. This is the key to finding a solution for a truly viable future.”
About the Sustainable Wildlife Management Program (SWM Program)
The Sustainable Wildlife Management Program (SWM Programme) is an initiative of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), funded by the European Union (EU) and co-funded by the French Fund for the Global Environment (FFEM) and French Development (AFD). The activities are implemented by a consortium of partners comprising the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Center for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), the Research Center of the International Forestry Organization (CIFOR) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
About the Global Landscape Forum
The Global Landscapes Forum is the world’s largest knowledge platform on integrated land use, connecting like-minded people to create productive, profitable, equitable and resilient landscapes. The GLF Africa digital conference was made possible thanks to the general support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUV), Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Food Systems, of Land Use and Restoration Impact (FOLUR), Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Robert Bosch Foundation.