Wildlife can endanger a community’s livelihoods and people – or become its greatest natural asset. If you’re trying to farm or graze, elephants and lions can wreak havoc. But if you’re willing to be flexible and make some effort, the same animals can attract income, jobs, and a link to the outside world. Where wildlife still roams in significant numbers, governments are allowing communities to create wildlife sanctuaries – particularly in “buffer” areas surrounding national parks or other reserves, and in “corridors” where animals move from one park to another in search of food, water, and mates.
Why Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)?
WMAs serve a double purpose. They sustain Africa’s unique inheritance of wild animals – a heritage so special that it draws millions of people from around the world every year.
Second, they allow communities to charge fees from these visitors for the privilege of viewing the wildlife and / or overnighting on their land. Previously, nearly all income from visitors went directly to tour operators – often based overseas – and governments.
Each country has different names, laws and policies names for community-owned conservation areas. Some, like Namibia, allow 100 percent of profits to stay in the community. Kenya allows communities to keep all income, except for taxes, from non-consumptive uses of wildlife on their land.
Tanzania’s 1998 Wildlife Policy states that WMAs will ensure that “local people will have full mandate of managing and benefiting from their conservation efforts”, although legal ownership of wildlife resources remain with the state. However, the WMA regulations of 2002 state that benefit-sharing will be defined “by circulars issued from time to time”. The most recent circular requests that income from conservation-based businesses go directly to the Government, which will then remit a percentage to villages.