BY SHARON SIBINDI
SHANGANO Arts Trust has joined forces with award-winning ranger Amos Gwema to raise awareness on wildlife poaching in Hwange.
The trust uses arts to engage youths and adults for social change and sustainable community development, training and performances.
As part of the project, the trust will perform an educational play called The Survival Tactics.
Gwema, the 2020 Tusk Wildlife Ranger in Africa award winner, told NewsDay Life & Style that the project would include drama and poetry to raise awareness against wildlife crimes that are on the increase in Hwange and elsewhere where communities live alongside wildlife.
“As the winner of the Tusk award, I approached Shangano Arts to assist me spread the word through drama and poetry. I chose them because they are local people who speak the local language and are understood by the communities,” he said.
“I have learnt that the communities here in Hwange are not educated enough about wildlife conservation. So as a way of reducing wildlife crime, I came up with a project to enlighten the communities about dangers of such crime.”
Gwema said people were being misled in committing wildlife crime.
“I have 15 years working as wildlife law enforcement officers and this is a unique project that targets people rather than aimed at protection of wildlife, capacitation of uniformed rangers forgetting the community,” he said.
“To me, the community is the first line of defence for effective wildlife conservation. The poacher comes from the community, the poacher disposes of wildlife products in the community, hence it is the community which is very important, but is rarely recognised.”
Gwema said his aim was to work with Shangano Arts only and various artists across the country in raising awareness against wildlife crimes.
Shangano Arts director Petros Ndhlovu said Hwange still had hotspots where people need to be educated about the dangers of wildlife crime, adding that they planned to use radio as a communication tool due to COVID-19 regulations.
“We have several hotspot areas or wards like Matetsi, Gamba, Shangano, Madumabisa, Lubangwe and Kasibi with higher wildlife crimes. Under the Twist Project funded by USAid [United States Agency for International Development], we have covered six areas with Savanna Trust,” he said.
“Now we have partnered Gwema and Community Action for Wildlife Conservation Trust to cover other areas which we left. The project will create, promote opportunities for inclusion of women, youths in community in activities that reduce wildlife crime and human wildlife conflicts, resulting in behaviour change that results in an increase in reporting of these crimes and a reduction in such crimes.”
Ndhlovu has, however, bemoaned lack of resources and COVID-19 restrictions as impediments to their endeavour to push their projects against wildlife crimes.
- Follow Sharon on Twitter @SibindiSharon