The Link Between Poaching & Poverty
A Namibian man explains poaching and poverty like this: “Our problem of poaching coincided with Namibia giving thousands of residency visas to the Chinese. .. These Chinese are courting our underpaid rangers and officials to point out where [the] elephants can be found... Unemployed Namibians, confronted by poverty. . . see poaching as a lucrative activity. .. The country has failed to address the socio-economic plight of its citizens and it culminates in a situation whereby locals partake in illegal activities like poaching because they wake up on a hungry stomach and sleep on a hungry stomach” (Gariseb). Many Tanzanians feel the same way – hungry and tempted to work with the poachers.
Getting Out of Poverty
One long-term solution to the poaching crisis must therefore be to help the poor Tanzanian people find jobs. To this end, the Tanzanian government could require the international companies that are extracting Tanzania’s natural resources to hire more Tanzanians; share company ownership with Tanzanians; and develop more infrastructure for clean water, electricity and sanitation. The fact is, there are now more than one million Chinese immigrants living in Africa, and they are taking African jobs (Joseph).
Another way to get more Tanzanians employed is to help the poachers become farmers or game scouts. A Zambian organization called Community Markets for Conservation has done just that, transforming more than 1,500 poachers. A journalist who interviewed many such men says they are “proud of their new life as an organic farmer, the way they lead the charge in managing human-wildlife conflict, and the freedom that comes with redemption” (Joseph).
Several African countries have found that allowing the local people to sell hunting rights and receive money directly from hunting companies has lifted the people out of poverty, given them a reason to fight poaching and ultimately decreased poaching. Tanzania has begun to use this strategy as well. In 2006 a successful Wildlife Management Area (WMA) was established in Ikona, Tanzania, which now has a photo tourism zone, a hunting zone and five villages. The secretary of the Ikona WMA says, “A huge chunk of the money is spent on provision of social services in the five villages with education, health and water sectors getting top priority” (Mugini). He adds that his WMA has created dozens of jobs, mostly as game scouts.
The Ruvuma Elephant Project near the Selous Game Reserve is another successful Tanzanian WMA story. “Since its inception in late 2011 the Project has produced and achieved the following overall results from patrols, aerial surveillance and other law enforcement activities: the seizure of 2,524 snares, 17,148 illegal timber (pieces), 206 elephant tusks, 848 firearms, 1,556 rounds of ammunition, 6 vehicles and 16 motorcycles [and] the arrest of 601 people” (Thome, “Could”).
Elsewhere in Tanzania, the PAMS Foundation has empowered local people by educating them about the benefits of co-existence with elephants; teaching them to solve conflicts with elephants; and helping them generate income. The more empowered the local people feel, the more likely they are to turn in poachers.
The WWF also recommends supporting local communities, urging the Tanzanian government to increase “the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable and alternative livelihoods” (Aplinari).
The Tanzanian government can help the WMAs. At the moment, the government retains 30% of the revenue from photographic safaris and 55% of the revenue from hunting; these percentages could go down so the WMA’s receive more money. The government could also do more to provide, train and outfit game scouts; provide scout vehicles; promote tourism by building more and better roads and campsites; and helping with marketing. Finally, the government could change the single-entry policy so that tourists can enter national parks more often, which would increase the WMAs business (Kekaita).
Although WMAs are a possible long-term solution to the poaching problem, there are some dilemmas. For instance, resolving how to get the hunters’ money from the district leaders to the families has been complicated. Also, most poaching rings are urban networks that are not likely to stop because of community-based programs (“Pushing”). Finally, WMAs take time to create, and Tanzania’s elephants are disappearing quickly. So although WMAs have their place, they are not the only solution.
What the Tanzanian People Think
A recent survey of 2,000 rural and urban Tanzanians found that almost 80% would care a great deal if elephants disappeared from Tanzania, primarily because they associate “wildlife with their national identity and heritage” (Mkama). Tanzanians should also be concerned about the poaching crisis because hundreds of thousands of them have jobs that depend on hunting and photo tourism (such as drivers, waiters and doormen) and losing elephants equates to losing jobs.
Yet most Tanzanians are not focused on elephants. This is probably because they are thinking about where their next meal is coming from. For example, in 2013, 68% of the population was living below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day, only 53% of the population was drinking clean water and only 12% had access to plumbing for sanitation (“United”). With such pressing social problems, it would be surprising if the average Tanzanian went out of his way to worry about elephants.
These ladies walk one mile each morning to fill their yellow buckets with water at the nearest water hole. The donkeys carry the buckets inside the cow skin blankets.
This is the nearest water hole. It is at the top of a hill, covered in algae.
These men are carving wood and soapstone into trinkets to sell to tourists.
These people are haggling to buy fish at the fish market in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. People eat fish because it is less expensive than meat.
Another view of the fish market.
In Dar-es-Salaam, men push carts or ride their bikes along the main road, selling eggs, water bottles, fruit and sundries to the people who pass by in their vehicles.
This boy just took some ostrich feathers off a dead ostrich. Later, he will sell or trade them.
The people who live in the remote villages and settlements live in huts made from mud, dung and grass. Most of the people who live in the cities live in shanty towns or apartments. There are relatively few neighborhoods with homes.
Tanzania has been an independent, peaceful democracy since the 1960’s. The biggest success has been in literacy: 87% of adult men and 76% of adult women have had some education, and 77% of the adult population is literate (2012). Recent advances have been clean water, housing conditions, communications and life expectancy: