By Lars Lofgren
In contrast to the common perception that poachers are only exploiting wildlife, John Kasaona presents a way to encourage poachers to integrate local communities, global economies, and local wildlife. By reintegrating poachers into the community and managing wildlife locally, economic growth and successful wildlife conservation are both achievable. Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) empowers local communities to manage wildlife conservation on their own and provides the potential for long-term and sustainable economic growth.
Kasaona explains a three-angled approach that has led to IRDNC’s success:
- Honoring tradition while incorporating new ideas in communities. For example, communities should be allowed to explore new technologies like GPS and decide how to merge them with their beliefs and traditions.
- Focusing on the solution, not punitive action. Many poachers are locals and should be reintegrated into efforts of preservation by being given the responsibility of helping the community enforce wildlife preservation. This strengthens communities instead of fracturing them as punitive action does.
- Developing extensive partnerships with government and businesses. By obtaining legal status of ownership for lands that communities have used traditionally while seeking opportunities to scale resources and training through NGO’s like the World Wildlife Fund, conservation efforts become far more sustainable.
Achievements over the last 15 years:
- Extended the lion population from 10 to 130.
- Obtained the largest population of free-roaming black rhinos from a nearly extinct population.
- Broad leopard population growth.
- The creation of a new institution, conservancies. Conservancies are legally instituted by the government and managed by local communities for their own benefit in order to protect their own land.
- Generated 5.7 million dollars, a driving force in the Namibia economy which has helped to build education and AIDS/HIV awareness programs.
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