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Importance of GIS to Community-Based Management of Wildlife: Lessons from Zambia

This article by Dale Lucas was published in Ecological Applications, 5 (4), 861-871 (1998). Wildlife resources under the protective custodianship of skilled managers can thrive and sustain important revenues. Such custodianship is generally lacking among communal rural societies in Africa because of land use policies that overlook the capacity and the practical importance of actively engaging these societies in wildlife management. In Zambia, participation by local village communities in this management is recognized as a prerequisite for wildlife development and conservation.

This participation is permitted through the administrative management design (called ADMADE) for game management areas. To help improve the capacity of rural communities to become more knowledgeable and effective in managing their wildlife resources, a geographical information system (GIS), based on ARC/INFO software, was applied and tested as an appropriate technology. It was hypothesized that maps composed of easily recognizable information about land use issues affecting the welfare of local residents and their natural resources would facilitate communal societies to make technically improved land use decisions with broad-based support within the community.

Results offered a growing set of achievements in land use planning by local community leaders in support of this hypothesis. Custom designed maps produced by this technology were used by these leaders to explain and build consensus at the community level on ways to resolve resource use conflicts. Results also demonstrated the pragmatic and cost-effective value of training local residents to participate in the collection of GIS data as a way of making maps more locally acceptable and better focused on relevant issues and needs.

Resource Link: www.esa.org

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