People and protected areas : natural resource harvesting as an approach to support rural communities surrounding Majete Wildlife Reserve, Southern Malawi : a case study

Gordon, Claire Nicola (2017-03)

Thesis (MScConsEcol)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Protected areas across the developing world are increasingly incorporating the needs of local rural communities into their management decisions. The African Parks managed Majete Wildlife Reserve (MWR) in the lower Shire valley of southern Malawi is no exception. Through African Parks’ extension department they aim to incorporate the needs of local communities into their management framework in order to maintain support for their conservation activities. A resource use program (RUP) which facilitates sustainable harvesting was implemented to allow community members access to thatching grass inside the reserve, via 8 RUP gates on the perimeter fence. Each RUP gate is opened once annually for 7 days and game scouts are made available to escort community members into the reserve to harvest grass. As a case study, we assessed the 2015 RUP activities at 5 of the 8 RUP gates to determine the number of community members utilising the program, the biomass of grass removed, the variation in grass bundle masses and the distances walked by community members to access the RUP gates. We determined that a total of 2211 community members accessed the reserve via the 5 monitored RUP gates and removed 134 073kg of thatching grass in 2015. Additionally, we found a significant variation in the bundle masses between individual harvesters, as well as the harvesting characteristics at each RUP gate. We also confirmed anecdotal suggestions from the African Parks extension assistants (EAs) that community members’ walk significant distances from their homes to the RUP gates to harvest grass. To assess the possibility of extending the current RUP to include medicinal plant harvesting we conducted interviews with 12 traditional healers in communities adjacent to the reserve. In conjunction with interviews, we conducted rapid ethnobotanical surveys, where we accompanied the traditional healers into the field to collect and formally identify plants used for medicinal purposes. We identified a total of 96 different plant species used by these healers, the majority of which were trees and shrubs. The most commonly used plant parts were roots, leaves and bark, and traditional healers currently treat 27 different ailments and illnesses. Additionally, we found a substantial variation in the local names for medicinal plants, with some plants having 5-6 local names. Almost all the traditional healers we interviewed listed their healing practise as their main source of formal income (n = 11), while all of the healers stated that prior to the reserve fence being erected they harvested medicinal plants in the reserve (n = 12), and that they would like to be able to harvest medicinal plants in the reserve again (n = 12). We conducted a household survey to determine general perceptions of the current RUP. Our findings suggest that overall; community members are satisfied with the RUP (92%) however there is some room for improvement. The majority of respondents requested that the annual RUP grass harvesting window is increased (96%), as currently it is not long enough for community members to harvest enough grass for their household needs. A significant number of community members also requested the addition of medicinal plant (70%) and firewood (70%) harvesting to the RUP. This feedback adds support to the traditional healers request for medicinal plant harvesting inside MWR. The findings of this study provide useful baseline data from which African Parks can continue to ensure that the RUP stays relevant to communities surrounding the reserve in the future. The long-term success of the reserve will ultimately depend on the continued support from local communities and the RUP is one way in which MWR can continue to engage with community members. The research acts as a useful case study to support the theory that communities are more likely to support continued conservation efforts when they can benefit and extract value from a protected area.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Beskermde gebiede dwarsoor die ontwikkelende wêreld inkorporeer toenemend die behoeftes van die plaaslike landelike gemeenskappe in hulle bestuursbesluite. Die Majete Wildreservaat (MWR) in die laer Shire-vallei van suidelike Malawi, wat deur African Parks bestuur word, is geen uitsondering nie. Deur African Parks se voorligtingsdepartement word ’n poging gemaak om die behoeftes van die plaaslike gemeenskappe in hulle bestuursraamwerk in te sluit om sodoende ondersteuning vir hul bewaringsaktiwiteite te onderhou. ’n Hulpbrongebruiksprogram (resource use program (RUP)) wat volhoubare oes fasiliteer, is geïmplementeer om lede van die gemeenskap toegang te gee tot die dekgras binne die reservaat via agt RUP hekke in die grensheining. Elke RUP hek word een keer per jaar vir sewe dae oopgesluit en wildwagters word beskikbaar gestel om gemeenskapslede in die reservaat te vergesel sodat hulle die gras kan oes. Ons het in 2015 die RUP aktiwiteite by vyf van die agt RUP hekke waargeneem om te bepaal hoeveel lede van die gemeenskap die program gebruik, die grootte van die biomassa van die gras wat verwyder is, die afwisseling in die massa van die grasbondels, en die afstande wat deur elke lid van die gemeenskap gestap word om toegang te kry tot die hekke. Ons het bevind dat ’n totaal van 2 211 gemeenskapslede die reservaat via die vyf RUP hekke binnegekom het en 134 073 kg dekgras verwyder het. Daarbenewens het ons ook noemenswaardige afwisseling in die bondelgroottes van individuele plukkers gevind, sowel as in oeskenmerke by elke RUP hek. Ons kon ook anekdotiese voorstelle van die voorligtingsassistente van African Parks bevestig dat gemeenskapslede baie lang afstande vanaf hulle huise tot by die RUP hekke stap om die gras te kan oes. Om die moontlikheid te ondersoek dat die huidige RUP uitgebrei word om die oes van medisinale plante in te sluit, is onderhoude gevoer met 12 tradisionele genesers in gemeenskappe langsaan die reservaat. Tesame met die onderhoude het ons vinnige etnobotaniese opnames onderneem waarvoor ons saam met die tradisionele genesers die veld ingestap het om plante wat vir medisinale doeleindes gebruik word, te versamel en formeel te identifiseer. Ons het ’n totaal van 96 verskillende plantspesies geïdentifiseer wat deur die genesers gebruik word, die meerderheid waarvan bome en struike was. Die plantdele wat die algemeenste gebruik word, was wortels, blare en bas, en tradisionele genesers behandel tans 27 verskillende kwale en siektes. Ons het ook aansienlike verskille in die plaaslike name vir die medisinale plante gevind, met sommige plante wat tot vyf of ses plaaslike name het. Feitlik al die tradisionele genesers met wie ons onderhoude gevoer het, het hulle helende praktyk as hulle vernaamste bron van formele inkomste beskryf, terwyl al die genesers genoem het dat hulle medisinale plante in die reservaat geoes het voor die heining opgesit is en dat hulle graag weer dié plante in die reservaat sou wou oes. Ons het ’n opname van huishoudings onderneem om die algemene persepsies van die huidige RUP te bepaal. Ons bevindings dui aan dat, oor die algemeen, gemeenskapslede tevrede is met die RUP, hoewel daar ruimte vir verbetering is. Die meerderheid respondente het vereis dat die jaarlikse tydperk vir die oes van gras in die RUP uitgebrei moet word, aangesien dit tans nie lank genoeg is vir gemeenskapslede om genoeg gras vir die behoeftes van hulle huishoudings te oes nie. ’n Noemenswaardige getal gemeenskapslede het ook die byvoeging van medisinale plante en vuurmaakhout tot die RUP aangevra. Hierdie terugvoer ondersteun die tradisionele genesers se versoek vir die oes van medisinale plante in die MWR. Die bevindings van hierdie studie verskaf nuttige data waarmee African Parks kan voortgaan om te verseker dat die RUP in die toekoms relevant bly vir die gemeenskappe om die reservaat. Die langtermyn sukses van die reservaat sal uiteindelik afhanklik wees van die volgehoue steun van plaaslike gemeenskappe en die RUP is een manier waarop die MWR kan aanhou om met gemeenskapslede betrokke te bly. Solank die plaaslike mense voordeel trek en waarde in die reservaat kan sien, sal hulle meer geneig wees om die voortgesette bewaringspogings van African Parks in die Majete Wildreservaat te ondersteun.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/101141
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