As Malawi struggles to control the proliferation of poaching in the country’s national parks and game reserves, an international organisation that works on improving the welfare of animals, has come up with a scheme that aims at curtailing the state of affairs, and empowering the local community.
The global association, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), has since facilitated the birth of a multi- facet Chikolongo Community Fish Farm Projec at Liwonde, targeting the rampant poaching in the Shire River which has resulted in suffocating the fishing industry and the country’s key source of protein,.
“We are proud to announce the launch of Chikolongo Community Fish Farm, at Liwonde National Park on 14th September which will help curb the widespread poaching.
“This community-led micro-enterprise venture is part of the Liwonde Conservation Programme, a partnership between the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) of Malawi” disclosed Christina Pretorius, IFAW Communications Manager for the Southern Africa Region.
Malawi’s economy is heavily based on agriculture, with food security being a constant challenge for the ordinary Malawian, and experts have indicated that intense human pressure has resulted in highly fragmented wildlife habitats, as protected areas such as Liwonde National Park are literally islands in a sea of most Malawians.
The Regional IFAW Communications Manager observed that community projects such as fish farms, hydroponic agriculture and other alternative farming methods, as well as skills training, relieve pressure on wildlife habitat.
“It is most likely that it reduces poaching of animals and fish for food, the cutting-down of trees for firewood and even the establishment of small food forms; as well as preventing the human-wildlife conflict which inevitably occurs when any of these activities take place,” she narrated.
In addition to decreasing poaching pressure on the Shire River Basin, the project is also set to provide an alternative livelihood opportunity that will bring long-lasting economic prospects to the community.
Tourism is essential to Malawi’s economy, and is mainly focused around Lake Malawi and the national parks system, and Liwonde National Park is Malawi’s most important national park and an important tourist destination.
Newstime Africa understands that the Liwonde National Park Conservation Programme is a partnership between IFAW and Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), and that the programme’s unique integrated approach benefits both wildlife and people.
“The project is greatly helping to safeguard the national park and its wildlife by enhancing capacity for park security, providing basic park management resources, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, providing alternative livelihood opportunities for communities around the park and training Malawian leaders as the conservation managers and rangers of the future,” said Pretorius.
She added: “IFAW helps safeguard the park’s elephants and other wildlife affected by human-wildlife conflicts both in the park and along its borders. These conflicts include poaching and habitat encroachment.”
Chikolongo Community Fish Farm, consisting of several ponds of different sizes, is on the western boundary of Liwonde National Park, one of the most important havens for biodiversity in Southern Africa.
It is comprised of the Shire River, lagoons and marshlands, reed swamps, grassy floodplains, deciduous woodlands, tall grass savanna, riverine thickets and mopane woodlands.
Liwonde National Park is also home to a huge number of species, from elephants and hippos and dozens of species of grazing mammals to reptiles, fish, insects and more than 600 species of birds.
The IFAW Communications Manager explained that her organisation works to improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats and assisting animals in distress.
“IFAW seeks to motivate the public to prevent cruelty to animals and to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the well-being of both animals and people.
“IFAW is also helping the Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife to make Liwonde National Park a safer place for elephants and people, now and in the future,” she disclosed from South Africa.
As Malawi’s national wildlife conservation authority, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, strives to conserve wildlife and their habitats, preserve biodiversity, and work towards the sustainable use of natural resources.
“It manages five National Parks, four Wildlife Reserves and three Nature Sanctuaries that cover 11 per cent of the total land area in all three regions of Malawi. The Department works with a number of stakeholders in conservation and wildlife management,” confirmed a Blantyre based Environmental Consultant.
Other than, the two entities, partners in establishing the fish farm include the Malawi Government, the Federal Government of Germany, and the Microloan Foundation, but ownership of the 1km long by 500 meters magnificent fish farm, according to IFAW, rests with the people of Chikolongo, “who have actually built the farm and the surrounding Model Boundary Fence”.
Welcoming the development, Tione Msukwa observed that Shire River is un disputably one of the rare nurseries for fish but the prevalent poaching is reducing fish stocks, hence applauded the initiative.
“The survival of Liwonde as a safe wildlife habitat require more than just sheer talk, and the alternative livelihood opportunities that might bring long-lasting economic prospects for the local communities is welcome move,” said Msukwa.
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