Village Scout support for local communities suffering from human/elephant conflict, Lower Zambezi, Zambia

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is threatening both economic development and environmental sustainability in the Lower Zambezi region. In this remote, underdeveloped area, livelihoods rely on subsistence crops (maize, rape, tomatoes, onions) which are very attractive to elephants and an entire harvest can be lost in one night, along with food storage buildings and housing. HEC leads to huge economic losses through property damage and even human fatalities in the local communities, which in turn result in elephant mortalities through “problem animal control” and in the general negative view of wildlife in the communities living on the border of a National Park. Rigorously selected and intensively trained in 2013, the Village Scout (VS) unit will conduct patrols in HEC affected areas. Trained not just in wildlife law enforcement but also in elephant behavior, these teams will help farmers avoid property and physical damage. GPS information from patrols and HEC incidents will be also be recorded by the unit and used alongside other information collected to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of this HEC mitigation project.

UPDATE – July 2014

Short Term Goals:

  • Number of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) incidents causing property/physical damage in the Chiawa GMA reduced;
  • Improved harvests for farmers of the Chiawa GMA during 2014 farming season;
  • Property/physical!damage suffered as a result of HEC incidents reduced

Long Term Goals:

  • Number of ‘problem’ elephants controlled in the Chiawa GMA reduced;
  • Improved attitudes towards elephant conservation by population of the Chiawa GMA;
  • Improved livelihoods due to consistently increased harvests in the GMA

Conservation Needs

The communities living in the Chiawa GMA face the daily challenge of resource conflicts between human and wildlife popula tions (principally elephants), unstable incomes and vulnerability to seasonal fluctua tions which leads to food insecurity, high poverty rates and a nega tive attitude towards bo th elephan ts and conservation activities in the area. In 2012, a survey in Chiawa found tha t whils t 70% responden ts reported planting maize, only half of them (37%) reported harvesting any, due to human-wildlife conflict and unfavourable weather conditions.

The human-elephant conflic t (HEC) in Chiawa poses a threat to elephant populations in the shor t term, as there is in tense pressure on the Zambian wildlife authority to respond to HEC through ‘problem animal control’, as this is often seen as the only solution to conflict and field protection, therefore elephants may be killed in order to appease tension be tween communities and wildlife au thori ties. the HEC in Chiawa also poses a long-term threat to elephants in the GMA and Na tional Park as these animals are seen as aggressive and evil, and therefore effor ts to conserve them are gree ted with resentment.

The introduction of HEC Village Scout patrols within the communities is important in providing people wi th the oppor tuni ty to benefi t from conserva tion efforts. The protection offered to fields through this project enables farmers an option to live alongside wildlife through conflict mitigation, rather than seeing problem animal control as the only option to curb HEC.

Summary of Goals & Objectives

In January 2014, the IEF provided $4,500 to CLZ in order to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the Chiawa GMA through the provision of Village Scout support to HEC affected communities. Through a constant presence during peak season (JantApril 2014) and ongoing support for the rest of the year (MayTDecember), CLZ looks to improve the communities’ livelihoods and food security in the area. Tensions between wildlife and communities lead to negative attitudes towards wildlife, conservation, and in extreme cases, even ‘revenge killing’ of elephants and wildlife causing damage to property. By providing a ZAWA/CLZ HumantElephant Conflict team to respond to property and crop raids, CLZ hope to reduce conflict and improve attitudes towards elephants and conservation in the GMA.

Describe any Changes in Goals

The original goals for the project remain the same. As the farming season comes to a close and farmers have harvested their crops, the HWC patrols will continue to operate in the Western GMA behind the communities to provide support to communities for human wildlife conflict, and also monitor for any signs of illegal activity.

Summary of Progress

See Annex 1 for details of the ZAWA and Village Scout Roster, Jan-July 2014. Figure 5 below shows the pa trol informa tion for each month Jan-April 2014 of scout teams in the village.

The HWC scouts were deployed full-time from 1s t January-April 30 th – the CLZ Village Scouts were engaged in Advanced tactical training for two weeks in January (12 th – 26 th). During this time, scouts from the Zambian Wildlife Authority were deployed in the communi ties to provide manpower whilst the Village Scouts were unavailable.

The total number of CLZ Village Scout man-days for HWC patrols January – April 2014 was 720. During this time, the scouts were camped at Chiawa Cultural Village in Mugurameno Village, Chiawa and Ngo tago ta, Chiawa. From this base, the scouts slept during the day and at dusk started their patrols until dawn. Scouts would cover between 1km and 10km per night, moving between 7 villages in the Western Chiawa GMA. the total number of Village Scout patrol man-days in the Western Chiawa GMA for May and June was 130. See Annex 3 for examples of Village Scout pa trol forms.


Each scout team was divided – two officers were assigned to the Ngotagota Area and four were assigned to the Mugurameno area. CLZ Human-wildlife conflict coordinator Stephen Kalio was placed as the contact point for scouts when they were deployed to the community. Upon deployment, the scouts reported to Mr Kalio, whereupon they were issued with fireworks provided by CLZ and ammunition provided by ZAWA. the Human-Wildlife Conflict Committee of the area, formed of representatives from the Chiawa Community Resource Board, Stephen Kalio and members of the community, along with the Zambian Wildlife Authority Senior Area Warden, were responsible for the scouts’ programme once they were in the village. The programme was based on both fast response to incidents, and providing support to all the villages through nightly rotation. Between January and 28 June 2014, a total of 2,832 fireworks were dis tribu ted to Village Scou ts for use in the community.

Conservation Outcomes

When the farming season has finished (farmers in Chiawa are currently growing vegetables in gardens rather than fields), we will be able to provide figures on the total number of HWC incidents, which the scouts responded to in our final report. Stephen Kalio, our humantwildlife conflict coordinator, will also be carrying out interviews with farmers in the area on their experience of the HEC patrols and the affect on their attitudes towards elephants.

See Annex 1 one for ZAWA and Village Scout patrol rosters for the first half of 2014.

As this is the first year where HWC incidents have been monitored, it is difficult to
quantify the impact made by the presence of the scouts. this will be possible in the
2015 farming season, where we are able to compare between years. At this interim point, we are able to provide qualitative data from farmers in the area interviewed about the project (see below).

Major Findings and Accomplishments to date – Increased Harvest

The season for farming in fields set back from the river, where HEC is most rife, finishes around April. Farmers are currently drying their maize before moving it for storage throughout the dry season. Results of CLZ interviews with farmers in the area all reported increased harvests this farming season. Once all the maize has been dried and placed in bags, we will be able to provide more comprehensive figures on weight of harvest. We intend to design a questionnaire for farmers in the area to provide a comprehensive picture for the final report. See below for case studies.

Relationships with CLZ and ZAWA

Of the sample of community members interviewed (pending full interviews later this year), this project has dramatically improved relationships between the community, CLZ and ZAWA. Community members recently called CLZ staff to a meeting in order to thank them for the support offered to them during the high conflict season. Whilst the number of elephant conflicts remain high, providing armed support has improved the communities’ safety and chances of harvest, whilst also their willingness to accept the risks associated with living alongside elephants.

Manpower and Logistics

Each Village Scout team consisted of between 4t6 scouts. As mentioned above, these were divided between two key locations: the Ngotagota area, in the West of the Chiawa GMA on the Kafue River, and Mugurameno, the most central village in a riverside stretch of 7 villages, a stretch of 10.1 km along the Zambezi. two scouts were based in Ngotagota, and four were camped in Mugurameno. the group in Mugurameno would divide into two groups of 2 scouts, and separate for night patrols in order to respond to the maximum amount of incidents. As the scouts were moving between villages by foot, the response time and number of incidents visited could be increased if the scouts had access to transport. If HWC Scouts are placed in the communities in the next farming season, CLZ will look to source bicycles for the teams.

In November 2014, CLZ HWC Coordinator Stephen Kalio will be carrying out interviews with beneficiaries to gather more findings and lessons learned.