Khetha – supporting communities’ right to choose
The illegal trade of wildlife products – including rhino horn and elephant ivory – is the world’s fourth largest transnational crime. These crimes represent not just a threat to Africa’s endangered animals, but also affect the safety and well-being of communities who live near these protected areas.
WWF South Africa and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) understands that the fate of people and wildlife are deeply connected, and this philosophy underpins the newly launched multi-partner project called Khetha (which means “choice”).
The initiative is a joint five-year programme between WWF offices in Mozambique and South Africa, USAID and a range of other partners including government departments in South Africa and Mozambique. Khetha tackles wildlife trafficking in South Africa and Mozambique through working closely with local communities to mitigate the negative effects of wildlife crime on both animals and people.
Khetha’s primary focus is on wildlife trafficking within the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. A key strategy is to work with local people living close to conservation areas to address the drivers behind illegal behaviour, including finding economic alternatives to illegal wildlife trade.
This has the potential to stimulate local development in places that are remote and isolated, and where socio-economic opportunities are extremely scarce. Khetha also aims to help revitalise the often adverserial relationship between communities and conservation agencies, and at a higher level, to support governments to implement national and regional wildlife trafficking policies.
Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa, commented: “WWF South Africa takes a holistic approach to environmental challenges. We know it is vital to involve people living around protected areas in conservation and are excited to bring this approach to countering illegal wildlife trade in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area.”
Doreen Robinson, Regional Environment Officer for USAID, added: “USAID is concerned not only about the impacts of illegal trade on wildlife but also on how it affects sustainable livelihoods for people. This is why we are making significant investments into combatting wildlife crimes throughout the southern Africa region to address this threat in a more systemic manner.”
Khetha’s work builds on earlier projects implemented by WWF SA, such as building the capacity of government officials working on wildlife trafficking in association with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and supported by the US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
One of Khetha’s focus areas will be southern Mozambique, an area heavily affected by wildlife trafficking. An existing project with the Mangalane community will be further expanded in an area adjacent to the Kruger National Park, in close collaboration with Mozambican partners and government agencies. WWF Mozambique will also provide support to research and academic institutions to generate scientific based knowledge within Great Limpopo Conservancies (GLC) and Limpopo National Park.
Anabela Rodriquez, Country Director of WWF Mozambique, added: “The transboundary threat of wildlife trafficking cannot be solved by a single actor in a single country, it is essential that we work closely together if we are to make headway against the wildlife trafficking networks threatening our people and our heritage.”