Wildlife conservation can boost Africa’s economic development

With wildlife tourism heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is now also increasing recognition of the need for growth and diversification in the sector. Image credit: WhyAfrica

Wildlife conservation can boost Africa’s economic development

Sustainable and inclusive wildlife economies are critical to the future of wildlife conservation in Africa. However, there is a lack of knowledge of wildlife economies and what is required to enhance their contribution to sustainable development and wildlife conservation across the continent.

The Wildlife Economy Institute (AWEI) of Stellenbosch University in South Africa recently received R10-million from the Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation team to   promote sustainable and inclusive wildlife economies across Africa.

The Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation team is a research entity which supports, funds and partners with national and international researchers to conduct cutting-edge research focused on the natural sciences.

The AWEI’s academic mandate is multidisciplinary working across the faculties of Stellenbosch University and collaborating with universities, research institutes, and conservation organisations across Africa. AWEI aims to generate new research on wildlife economy and to use it to enhance policies, governance, and management practices within the sector.

Sustainable and resilient wildlife economies are critical to aligning wildlife conservation with inclusive economic development in Africa. With wildlife tourism heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is now also increasing recognition of the need for growth and diversification in the sector.

According to Oppenheimer Generations Head of Research and Conservation, Dr. Duncan MacFadyen sustainable and inclusive wildlife economies are critical to the future of wildlife conservation in Africa. “However, there is a lack of knowledge of wildlife economies and what is required to enhance their contribution to sustainable development and wildlife conservation across the continent,” says MacFadyen.

The sustainability of the wildlife economy depends on well-functioning value chains in products such as tourism and recreation, hunting and fishing, and wildlife products including game meat.

A Taste of Game

The game meat industry is diverse and has seen continued growth. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural developed reported that the average gross value of game meat amounted to R38- million between 2000 and 2008. More recently, Wildlife Ranching South Africa estimated that by 2018 the value of game processing at R4.5-billion annually. This growth is predominantly due to consumer demand for healthier, GMO-free, low-fat protein. The increased demand and supply of game meat contributes to rehabilitated natural landscapes, rural economic development, job creation, and food security.

Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University says that by bringing together academics from various disciplines – including law, economics, business and conservation science – to engage with stakeholders and decision makers, the aim is to facilitate an enabling environment for wildlife economies across the continent. “Taste of Game demonstrates the potential for diversifying wildlife value chains by connecting responsible consumption to transformed landscape management, and providing economic, health and social benefits through conservation,” he says.

Prof Kennedy Dzama, AWEI Chair and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences adds that the governance of the wildlife industry is complex and suffers both from a lack of and a surfeit of mandates, standards and regulations. “However, the private sector together with government can focus on opportunities for creating an enabling environment. A key focus of the work of the AWEI is identifying how community livelihoods can be enhanced through scaling up the wildlife economy,” says Dzama.

Though the Taste of Game initiative, AWEI together with Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation aims to support the development of an inclusive and sustainable wild meat sector across Africa that benefits both people and nature.

Wildlife conservation can boost Africa’s economic development

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