A response to proposed anti-hunting legislation in the UK and Europe that threatens to undermine rural African communities’ rights, livelihoods and conservation efforts
Millions of hectares of land across Southern and East Africa are managed by rural communities to conserve their natural resources and support their rural development goals. For centuries, African people have been custodians of nature – living with and caring for wildlife. Today, their right to control, manage and sustainably use their natural resources, including wildlife, for their benefit, is enshrined in national legislation and international treaties.
The United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium is currently proposing legislation aimed at wildlife conservation that, if passed with certain promised conditions, will greatly harm the livelihoods of these African communities and wildlife conservation. We seek to ensure that the rights of African communities are protected and that any new laws do not threaten the welfare of the animals they are intended to conserve as well as the people responsible for protecting them.
These often marginalised and poor communities need revenue to be able to sustain their community conservation efforts. A major source of income for this endeavour is so-called trophy hunting.
Trophy hunting generally involves the payment of a fee by a foreign or local hunter for a hunting experience, usually guided, targeting one or more individuals of a particular species with specific desired characteristics, based on quotas granted by governments. The trophy is usually retained by the hunter and taken home. Meat of hunted animals is either distributed to local communities, or sold when hunts take place on private land. Hunting of this kind (also referred to as sport or recreational hunting) has been used as a conservation and rural development tool worldwide, including in the UK and the USA. The term trophy hunting focuses on what the hunting client receives after the hunt, yet the purpose of hunting from the point of view of rural communities and landowners is to generate income and other benefits from wildlife in order to conserve it on that land. The term conservation hunting is therefore more accurate from an African perspective.
The government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has planned to introduce the Animals Abroad Bill in the House of Commons in the first half of 2022. Environment minister Zac Goldsmith has promised that it would contain a ban on imports of hunting trophies (parts of hunted animals) into the UK, as part of an effort to end so-called trophy hunting globally. The government has indicated that the bill will not be introduced in the current parliamentary session due to a lack of available time but insists it will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows. UK MP John Spellar has also introduced a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons, entitled “Trophy Hunting Import (Prohibition) Bill” centred on an import trophy ban. This bill is scheduled for a second reading in March 2022 after a first reading was blocked.
Although varies from country to country and between regions within countries, an estimated 50-90% of net revenues generated by trophy hunting is allocated to local entities, including community-based organisations. In Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, rural communities generate around US$16.35 million each year, with benefits accruing to about 8.2 million people living on or near 478,000 km2 of land.
Many community-based organisations also have agreements with photographic tourism operators but hunting tourism is the more reliable source of income, as it is more resilient to external shocks and can take place in areas unsuitable for other forms of tourism. This revenue is used for crucial community development projects in the areas of healthcare, infrastructure development, education, housing, support for pensioners, funeral cover, access to water, amongst other projects. Besides money earned and jobs created, meat from these hunts is an important source of protein for these communities – nothing is wasted.
Well-managed trophy hunting has demonstrably improved the conservation status of multiple threatened species, including lion, white rhino, black rhino and others. Trophy hunting was a key factor in recovery of the white rhino in South Africa and provides an important source of finance for both black and white rhino conservation in Namibia and South Africa. Through trophy hunting, greater incentives to protect the habitat that wildlife requires to flourish have led to more land being conserved than in National Parks and other state protected areas.
Land managed for wildlife use currently plays a vital role in protecting ecosystems against threats such as habitat loss and poaching, which pose far greater threats to the world’s endangered species. As custodians, communities understand and value wildlife and are more invested in conservation. There are no readily available, viable alternatives to trophy hunting that are able to provide the levels of income necessary to sustain wildlife conservation and generate valuable revenues for local communities.
If the import of hunting trophies is prohibited, incentives for wildlife habitat conservation would be removed and rural communities in southern Africa who are part of national community-based conservation programmes would not have the means of e.g. employing hundreds of game guards to protect such wildlife habitat. Only a handful of species are hunted, but tens of thousands of other species depend on the same.
Trophy hunting is a highly selective form of hunting, which generates income from a very small number of animals that is used to conserve the rest of the population. A trophy import ban will result in negative impacts on conservation: decreasing local communities’ conservation efforts, increasing the risk of poaching, and increasing the conversion of wildlife habitat to alternative land use such as agriculture instead of hunting. Maintaining intact natural habitat is an important aspect of mitigating climate change, as these habitats sequester carbon and provide other ecosystem services. If a trophy import ban led to an end of conservation hunting, millions of hectares currently managed for wildlife will be lost and rural African communities will suffer. Indeed, where trophy hunting has been subjected to bans, wildlife has often suffered and conflict with communities has increased.
We appreciate that for people not familiar with the realities of rural Africa, hunting may seem a counterintuitive conservation strategy. But if the objective is conservation – not solely recognising individual animal rights – it is necessary to understand the context of coexisting with dangerous wildlife. Consider our perspectives, evidence base, and success stories from a conservation method that recognises the basic human right of our peoples to manage and benefit from the sustainable use of our natural resources. If the British Government wishes to put constraints on such an important source of income, they must provide viable alternatives to help our communities and their conservation efforts to continue and grow in future.
CLN is a collaborative grouping of rural representatives from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe whose vision is: a socially and economically resilient southern African people whose livelihoods are grounded in their rights to sustainably use their natural resources supported by international respect for their existing governance systems.
CLN seeks to ensure that the voices of rural African people are heard and influence international, regional and national public and policy making processes that affect our rights and abilities to sustainably manage those natural resources on which our livelihoods depend.
Resource Africa supports rural African community efforts to secure their rights to access and sustainably use their natural resources in order to sustain their livelihoods. We help to build strong platforms for collaboration, knowledge, skills sharing, and joint advocacy to ensure community voices are heard in debates that materially affect their lives. We believe that when rights are upheld and incentives for conservation are provided to those who live with wildlife there will be positive conservation outcomes benefitting people and nature.
For more information, to arrange interviews or for support with content creation, please contact:
Resource Africa Communications
Mobile/WhatsApp: +27 63 567-9719
Below, are key data for countries, where information is available, on the extent of Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) and the income generated from it (calculated for the most recent years available, pre-COVID). Although hunting also generates benefits for rural communities in Mozambique and South Africa, formal CBNRM programmes are not fully established in these countries. Hunting is not yet allowed on state or communal lands in Malawi.
86 Communal Conservancies
166,179 km2 of land
US$ 2.3 million generated from hunting (2019)
473,956 kg of meat distributed
28 Wildlife Districts
˜50,000 km2 of land
2.4 million people directly and indirectly benefitting
US$ 850,000 disbursed to communities (2016)
Over 80 Community Resource Boards and 10 Community Trusts
167,000 km2 under 36 Game Management Areas
5 million people living in GMAs
US$ 5 million disbursed to communities (2019)
45 Community Trusts linked with Wildlife Management Areas
283,123 people living in WMAs
US$ 3.9 million (2011/12)
21 Community Associations linked with Wildlife Management Areas
28,484 km2 of land
US$ 4.3 million (2017)
1. Historical background
The basic premise of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) is to actively involve rural communities in wildlife conservation, and to allow them to access benefits accruing from wildlife-based industries. The advent of CBNRM in southern Africa came at a time (1980s and 1990s) when newly independent African nations were looking for different ways to conserve the environment from those imposed by colonial governments. The colonial approach is also known as “fortress” conservation, whereby National Parks were set up, people were displaced, and those living in rural areas were prevented from using their resources in traditional ways. This means that traditional hunters were labelled as “poachers” and all of the wildlife, whether it occurred in the Parks or beyond, was considered government property.
During the mid-1900s, some of the rules against using wildlife were relaxed, but only on white-owned properties (in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe). This was mainly because the governments of the day realised that wildlife outside National Parks was being eradicated, despite being nominally protected as state property. The changes to legislation marked the rise of game farming on private land, which led to increasing wildlife populations in these countries. Due to colonial and apartheid laws of the time, black people living in communal lands were not granted the same rights to use wildlife and were regularly punished as “poachers”.
CBNRM was therefore seen as a means to grant similar rights to wildlife (and other resources eg. plants and fish) on communal land as already existed on private land. CBNRM has become a major part of conservation in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe (see stats above). Tanzania initiated a CBNRM programme in the 2000s using lessons learned in these four countries, and Mozambique is in the process of establishing a CBNRM programme. Taking a similar approach, South Africa, Malawi and Mozambique have granted communities living alongside state protected areas the right to benefit financially from wildlife-based industries within those areas.
2. Wildlife-based industries
In seven of these countries (all, except Malawi), hunting is a means of generating income from wildlife. Depending on national laws and quotas, many communities may hunt wildlife for their own use – i.e. for community meetings or household distribution. To remain sustainable, however, only small numbers of animals are permitted for use in a given year (this number is called a “quota”). Since there are many people living in these areas alongside relatively low densities of wildlife, hunting for meat alone does not provide employment or other community benefits. Communities therefore need to establish wildlife-based industries that generate higher financial returns from their wildlife.
Photographic tourism can generate high financial returns and create substantial employment opportunities. Many community-based organisations (CBOs) have engaged with private sector companies to run tourism operations on their lands, and this is the leading source of income in places that are suited to tourism. However, not all communities live on lands that are suitable for tourism – areas that do not have reliable transport infrastructure (e.g. roads or regular flights), are not scenically attractive, have low wildlife densities, or are still unknown to the main tourist markets, are unlikely to attract a tourism operator.
Hunting tourism (also called conservation hunting) is the other high value option available to communities. Similar to photographic tourism, the CBOs can engage hunting outfitters to attract international hunting clients to hunt a small number of animals per year. The fees paid by international hunters per animal are many times greater than the value of the meat, although the meat is also distributed to the community after a successful hunt. A hunting operation can make a financial success in areas where a photographic operator may not, particularly because each hunting client pays much more for their experience than an average tourist. The overall carbon and environmental footprint of the average hunting camp is lower than the average photographic lodge, due to the low number of hunting guests arriving per year.
3. How income is used
The income from wildlife-based industries is used for a variety of purposes. The CBOs employ community guards/scouts/rangers to conduct anti-poaching patrols, assist with reducing human-wildlife conflict, and educate members of the community on the importance of conservation. CBOs usually have one or more office staff and other operating costs. In some countries, the revenue generated from wildlife is shared with the government (the percentage taken by government varies from country to country).
The profits made by CBOs are then distributed to the broader community. The community and their leaders decide on the kinds of benefits and how they will be shared, and the CBO staff implements the distribution process. Benefits can take the form of cash and/or meat distributed to households, or they can be for larger community projects (e.g. building/repairing kindergartens and clinics, providing electricity to villages, maintaining water infrastructure). In some cases, vulnerable members of society are given cash (e.g. pensioners), or promising scholars are assisted with costs to attend university. Money may also be earmarked for reducing human-wildlife conflict or covering some of the costs of damages caused by animals.
Besides direct benefits, the CBO opens employment opportunities when it enters into agreements with the private sector. These agreements usually include a clause regarding local employment and training. The presence of a lodge or hunting camp may further provide opportunities for craft makers or other small local businesses to supply local products to the lodges or camps.
4. Photographic Tourism
Photographic tourism and conservation hunting can occur on the same community conservation area, provided that area is large enough and clearly zoned. Namibian conservancies frequently have contracts with operators in both sectors, although the majority of CBOs in southern Africa only have hunting operators. Some of these may have future photographic tourism potential, but this could not be realised in the absence of a CBO. Without income from hunting, most CBOs would not be able to cover their operating costs and thus become insolvent. The only value for wildlife would be as meat, and there would be no money available for wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching patrols, or community benefits.
5. The influence of international legislation
The trade in animal parts is already governed through international agreements (particularly CITES), which limits the numbers of endangered species that can be traded between countries. Quotas for more common species (e.g. kudu, impala) are decided within specific areas. These systems are designed to maintain sustainability in the hunting industry – it is not in the hunting industry’s interest, or in the interests of communities and their governments to drive any animal species to extinction.
Hunting clients come from all over the world to hunt in Africa, although the main markets are in the West – particularly the USA, the EU and the UK. Legislation passed in one or more of these jurisdictions that negatively affect the international hunting market would therefore have a negative impact on CBNRM in southern Africa. By suggesting domestic legislation (e.g. laws within the UK, EU or US) to control the importation of animal parts produced through hunting, lobby groups are attempting to bypass international treaties and African laws. Further, passing anti-hunting legislation in one of these jurisdictions (e.g. the UK or one US state) sets a precedent that encourages the others to pass similar legislation.
Given the history of Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), outlined briefly above, the idea of a non-African government imposing restrictions on Africans being allowed to use wildlife is a return to colonialism. Although both photographic and hunting tourism started in colonial times, these industries have been adopted and modified by current African governments to suit the development needs of modern Africa.
In countries where CBNRM (or similar ideas) has been implemented, hunting plays a critical role in financing wildlife conservation on communal lands and generating tangible benefits for rural communities. This role cannot easily be replaced with photographic tourism. Consequently, if international hunting visitor numbers decline sharply in response to legislation passed in the US, EU or UK, African wildlife and rural communities will be negatively affected.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
IUCN Publication: The Trade in Wildlife – A Framework to Improve Biodiversity and Livelihood Outcomes (2015)
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is a policy and action research organisation promoting sustainable development and linking local priorities to global challenges.
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body established by States to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
The Community Leaders Network (CLN) is a collaborative grouping of rural representatives from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe whose vision is: a socially and economically resilient southern African people whose livelihoods are grounded in their rights to sustainably use their natural resources supported by international respect for their existing governance systems.
The Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations (NACSO) is an association comprising eight Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and the University of Namibia who seek to provide quality services to rural communities seeking to manage and utilise their natural resources in a sustainable manner.
CAMPFIRE Zimbabwe: https://www.campfirezimbabwe.org/
The Community Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE)
the first community-based wildlife conservation project to approach wildlife as a renewable, profitable resource, and it serves as a model for some other indigenous conservation projects in Africa.
The Zambia CBNRM Forum: https://zambiacbnrmforum.wordpress.com/
The Zambia Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Forum is a platform for CBNRM discourse, debate and development in Zambia.
The Community Wildlife Management Areas Consortium (CWMAC) is an umbrella organization for all Authorised Associations (AAs) that manage Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in Tanzania.
Southern African Trust (SAT): https://southernafricatrust.org/
The Southern Africa Trust works to strengthen the voice and agency of poor people in policy processes to reduce poverty and inequality in southern Africa. The Trust works in expansive civil society engagements in national and regional policy dialogues to ensure the voices of the poor are heard, and they influence policies to end poverty.
African CSOs Biodiversity Alliance (ACBA): https://africancba.org/
ACBA provides a platform for African CSOs to speak with one voice on issues of sustainable use of nature that contribute to conservation and equitable benefits from nature.
African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) : https://www.achpr.org/sessions/resolutions?id=520
The Commission ensures protection of human and peoples’ rights. It is mandated to interpret the provisions of the Charter upon request of a state party. They recently adopted a resolution on the recognition and protection of the right of participation, governance and use of natural resources by indigenous and local populations in Africa.
The Community-Based Natural Resource Management Network (CBNRM Net): https://www.cbnrm.net/
Worldwide, people working on CBNRM, as practitioners, managers and researchers, are increasingly requesting better communication capabilities. CBNRM Net is a response to this call, providing a powerful set of broad, robust and useful networking tools aimed at linking stakeholders.
Maliasili exists to support high-potential local organisations to accelerate the benefits they bring to people, ecesystems and climate change. Our mission is to accelerate community-based conservation through local organisations.
People not Poaching: https://www.peoplenotpoaching.org/
The People not Poaching online learning platform aims to support community-based approaches to tackling illegal wildlife trade.
The Environment and Society Portal: https://www.environmentandsociety.org/
The Environment and Society Portal is a gateway to open access resources on the human-environment relationship.
For more information, to arrange interviews or for support with content creation, please contact:
Resource Africa Communications
Mobile/WhatsApp: +27 63 567-9719
Get monthly briefs and updates on what is happening in the area of rights, sustainable use and conservation direct to your inbox.