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Wildlife crop damage valuation and conservation: conflicting perception by local farmers in the Luangwa Valley, eastern Zambia

Abstract

Vincent R. Nyirenda, Willem J. Myburgh, Brian K. Reilly, Andrew I. Phiri and Harry N.Chabwela

Wildlife conservation in Luangwa Valley depends on perception by local communities, and is affected by wildlife crop raiding. Perception of local farmers were elucidated between 2006/7 and 2008/9 farming seasons. Data collection was done using prescribed forms and semi-structured questionnaires by trained field assistants. The case study findings confirm that firstly, perceived and actual crop losses differed by 49.49 and 7.78% for mono-specific stands of maize and cotton, respectively. Secondly, opportunity costs incurred and perceived by local farmers were higher than direct costs. Most farmers (79.83%, n = 95) associated opportunity costs of wildlife crop damage with loss of sleep and loss of time for other chores, when providing crop protection. Thirdly, conservation objectives and local farmers’ needs and aspirations were antithetical. Majority of local farmers (82.59%, n = 204) expanded or segregated crop fields, thereby degrading wildlife habitats. Ensuing negative perception posed high risks to wildlife conservation in Luangwa Valley. Incentivising performance conservation payments to local farmers are recommended, to increase their tolerance levels while incurring costs of living with wildlife. Implementation of improved environmental education and awareness creation, coupled with capacity building through appropriate trainings and facilitated infrastructure in resolving human-wildlife conflicts are critical.

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