A clean argument

  • 14/07/1997

A clean argument The reopening of international trade in ivory will ensure the continuation of 'conservation-based community development' programmes like CAMPFIRE and the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust of Botswana. Under these programmes, communities in these countries have earned revenues that are being used for the construction of clinics, schools, drilling of bore holes and commissioning of grinding mills.

"Communities also use some of the funds to promote conservation work within their environment. All wildlife managing communities use a significant portion of their CAMPFIRE revenues for employment of game guards, construction of water points for animals and erection of electric fences to monitor animal movements and minimise the danger of human-animal conflicts," says CAMPFIRE director Taparendava Maveneke. He says communities expect CITES to be rational, a trade regulation tool rather than a tormentor - a reliable and consistent convention which will remove "politics and economic clout as determinants of the outcome of debates on the future of species."

CAMPFIRE, launched in 1987 to give rural communities control over the harvesting of their resources - especially communities existing on marginal agricultural land that has wildlife - has come in for constant criticism from the animal rights movement in the West. John Hutton, director of Africa Resources Trust (ART), the NGO which spear-beaded the campaign for reopening international trade in ivory agrees that elephants represent a resource with tremendous potential for alleviating poverty which is being wasted. "Half of the ivory stock in Zimbabwe belongs to impoverished rural communities. Yet CITES has effectively frozen their strongest asset, and rendered meaningless the accumulation of more," he says.

CAMPFIRE currently derives 90 per cent of its income from sport hunting, and 64 per cent of this comes from elephant hunting. Even Zimbabwe's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management (DNPWLM) has been badly affected by the ban on ivory trade. At least 30 per cent of the department's budget was from ivory sales before the ban in 1989. There is now more than US $30 million worth of ivory and hides stockpiled and being maintained by the DNPWLM.

The report of the panel of experts had noted this fact and said that anti-poaching effectiveness "can only be maintained if current financial and management problems are resolved". In the cases of Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana, the report had noted that implementation of the proposal in "unlikely to have negative impacts on the conservation status of the elephant population".

Leonissah Mumoma, Editor, Development Dialogue, Harare

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