Key to community-based habitat protection for wildlife and forest carbon are Community Scouts. Community Scouts protect community assets and are pivotal to BCP’s mission of making conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people. Countering threats to important wildlife habitats such as illegal logging, illegal charcoal, illegal mining, poaching and fire requires specialized skills.
BCP partners closely with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to build community capacity in our Lower Zambezi and Luangwa Projects. Community Scouts are actually hired by Community Resource Boards (CRBs) through a partnership between CRBs, DNPW and BCP. BCP has supported a Community Scout model with DNPW and CRBs since 2013 beginning in the DNPW Lower Zambezi Area Management Unit where 30 scouts were trained and now help to protect forests and wildlife.
Through a partnership with DNPW and Forestry Department, all 10 partner Chiefdoms in the Luangwa Valley were given an opportunity to compete for 50 training slots beginning in April, 2019. Of these 50 trainees (including a number of women who passed the selection), 30 will be selected by the DNPW Training Wing to contribute to improved protection of the Luangwa Valley.
Becoming a Community Scout is hard: 517 people applied for 30 positions—less than a 6% acceptance rate. After a 3-month training course under the auspices of DNPW, the Community Scouts will undertake anti-poaching and wildlife habitat protection patrols year-round with DNPW in at-risk conservation areas linking South Luangwa, Luambe, Lukusuzi and part of North Luangwa National Parks.
While 60 CRB scouts funded by BCP across over 900,000 hectares is not enough; it is the start of an effort to support communities and Government with enhanced resources to help protect the iconic Luangwa ecosystem. Recruiting locally provides much-needed employment opportunities for families in rural areas with low employment rates, while also ensuring the forest and wildlife are protected by individuals who are accountable to their own communities for protection outcomes. This model mirrors a goal of BCP to be majority community-staffed from the Chiefdoms in which we work. With the addition of the Luangwa Community Scouts, around 70% of BCP’s entire monthly payroll will be to project area community staff. We target this figure growing in future.
Both deforestation and poaching jeopardise community benefit streams by reducing carbon offset revenues, and value from wildlife tourism. Along with intensive livelihood improvement efforts, protection undertaken by the people who also stand to benefit from REDD+ success is an important part of BCP’s formula.
During the course of their work, Community Scouts will need to traverse difficult terrain, encounter potentially dangerous wildlife and face determined people breaking the law, as well as record wildlife species and forest data. BCP is proud of our partnerships with DNPW, Forestry Department and Communities, and proud of the men and women putting themselves on the conservation front-line.