THERE is a generation in which wildlife brought clean-drinking water to thirsty humans, built them a school, a clinic, a road that linked them to the rest of the world and created employment.
More than 30 years after the introduction of international hunting in Zimbabwe’s Masoka hunting community, a local resident, Ishmael Chaukura, looks back with great appreciation about how international hunting has brought life-changing socio-economic transformation to the previously disadvantaged wildlife-rich community.
Previously cut-off from the rest of the world because of lack of a connecting road, wildlife later took away the misery from the Masoka hunting community members.
“The international hunting-revenue-funded road construction played a major role in linking the previously isolated Masoka with Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare, including Guruve and Mushumbe towns,” said Chaukura.
Where there was no access to basic health, international hunting revenue has supported the construction of Masoka Clinic.
“People even walked for 47 kilometres to get to the nearest clinic at Angwa Bridge,” he said.
Chaukura said that before Masoka community started benefitting from the international hunting revenue, women and children comparatively suffered more from the socio-economic disadvantages than their male counterparts.
“Think of a pregnant woman walking for 47 kilometres to the nearest clinic,” he said.
- 'Brand Zim': A project in vain in deepening economic crisis
- Interview: Economic crisis stalling govt projects
- Artistes sing against sanctions
- Let’s start to rethink on tobacco
“The schools were also far away from Masoka hunting community and the girl child could not walk such long distances to attend school.
“Accordingly, most women were not able to access education, except for a few who had to go and stay in distant areas where there were schools.
“Even then the highest education level for a girl child was Grade 7.”
Fortunately, the wildlife-revenue constructed Masoka Secondary School not only made it possible for the girl child to access education but also made her achieve the highest level of education possible, including degrees and diplomas.
“Along with the high-achievers such as the two medical doctors, the international hunting revenue-built Masoka Secondary School also produced a large number of nurses, technicians and accountants who are occupying high positions and giving the much-needed health and other professional services to our country, Zimbabwe,” Chaukura said.
He noted that without electricity and butcheries in Masoka, “one can go for a long time without eating meat which compromises their health because of the lack of protein.”
“Fortunately, the advent of international hunting made it possible for local residents to be periodically supplied with wildlife meat from hunted game which boosts the community’s protein needs,” he said in an interview this month.
“Since then, residents of Masoka hunting community have continued to receive meat from hunted wildlife.
“Think of how a marginalised old lady who can’t even afford to earn a dollar annually but can now receive 10 kilogrammes of game meat each time international hunters are in the area.
“This is a very good benefit for them.”
Chaukura said that Masoka residents previously did not have any local shops to supply them with mealie-meal. Fortunately, international hunting revenue was used to buy grinding mills (hammer mills), making it possible for the locals to produce their own mealie-meal. This also led to skills development and employment creation as some Masoka residents were being trained and employed to repair grinding mills.
Where there were no boreholes to supply clean-drinking water, the lions, elephants, buffaloes, kudus and leopards have brought them to the Masoka people through the money that international hunters pay to hunt these animals.
“Through use of international hunting revenue, the Masoka community clinic, schools and growth points now have clean-drinking water,” he said. “The availability of clean-drinking water is contributing towards the promotion good health in Masoka.”
It is in Masoka where UN and its environmental agency, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), can now discover that wildlife has long been ‘working’ towards achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), way before the 2015 announcement of SDGs.
Evidently, the world cannot ignore the life-changing international hunting benefits happening in Masoka. Apart from creating employment for community game scouts, the international hunting income is also being used for wildlife and habitat conservation.
Chaukura said international hunting revenue has “touched and changed for the better, the lives of Masoka residents” with many young men and women being employed as local game scouts.
Indeed, this is what sustainable development is all about — when both the environment, including wildlife and the people’s wellbeing is simultaneously and continuously improving.
Therefore, Masoka is a must-visit community for the UN officers, UNEP officers, journalists, animal rights groups, fundraising NGOs, Western government leaders, university students, professors and researchers. Chaukura said that the management and use of international hunting revenue by the Masoka hunting community as well as their active participation in deciding which community projects the money should be used to support, have democratised decision-making on socio-economic development projects in the community.
“I think the democratisation of community participation in decision-making regarding how international hunting revenue should be used to support community development, wildlife and habitat conservation projects is one of the key elements brought by international hunting,” he said.
“This process also empowers the community to meet its socio-economic and conservation needs through active involvement in project planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.”
Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international-award-winning environmental journalist who writes independently on environmental and developmental issues in Africa.