About This Project
Tanzania’s Serengeti ecosystem faces the challenge of balancing wildlife conservation and local livelihoods in an increasingly human-dominated landscape. Communities face decisions about what actions to take in response to wildlife conflict, yet often lack information about their effectiveness. In our pilot participatory research program, we work with communities living in the Serengeti ecosystem to evaluate the impact of actions to improve coexistence between people and wildlife.
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What is the context of this research?
In 2018, LPZ began working with three villages that have taken steps to address human-wildlife conflict, including: community-led groups to prevent crop damage by elephants and other wildlife in order to improve agricultural productivity, and construction of livestock watering holes to reduce grazing pressure in wildlife areas.
A critical aspect of our research is co-creating solutions: we directly engage villages and local Community Monitors in research design and data collection. Decisions about which indicators to monitor are made based on the priorities of each village, in order to promote ownership of the process of evaluation and reliable data.
What is the significance of this project?
The human population around Serengeti National Park is growing rapidly. Human-wildlife conflict, bushmeat hunting, livestock incursions, and deforestation have accelerated as a result. As people and wildlife increasingly compete for land and resources, decision-makers face monumental choices about the role that local communities will play in shaping Serengeti’s future. Too often, these choices are made in favor of either wildlifeor communities. These decisions are often hindered by a lack of scientific evidence about community actions which may maintain a balance between the needs of people and the needs of wildlife. Building evidence of the impacts of community-led actions to reduce the challenges of living with wildlife can offer a path toward improved coexistence in the ecosystem.
What are the goals of the project?
LPZ works with communities to build evidence of the effectiveness of local solutions to conservation challenges. By measuring the impact of community-led strategies, we aim to empower communities to adopt strategies that work, and to improve the potential for humans and wildlife to continue to share this ecosystem.
In September 2018, Community Monitors began collecting data on prices of local commodities to monitor how efforts to reduce elephant conflict affects crop yield and production of bushmeat. In another village, Community Monitors conduct monthly transects to determine the impact of a water hole on people and wildlife interactions.
Data is collected by Community Monitors using smartphones, then compiled and analyzed by LPZ researchers.
Funds for data collection support stipends and technology costs for six Community Monitors to record and upload data within their village each month, including wildlife transects, efforts taken to prevent elephant crop-raiding, and prices of commodities in local markets.
Keeping our project vehicle on the road is essential to allow us to visit these villages regularly to meet with the Community Monitors, troubleshoot technology issues, and provide feedback on data collection quality. This includes $150 per month for fuel, maintenance and running costs.
We believe that it’s important that village members receive regular feedback on the study and results. In addition to hosting village meetings, we plan to provide further training for the Community Monitors to interpret and share results. This promotes the chances of scaling up successes to other communities. Costs for hosting a series of training workshops and meetings is estimated at $1,300.
This pilot research program was initiated in September 2018, and is expected to last through December 2019, with the potential to scale if the approach is successful. Dissemination meetings are intended to provide periodic updates to the members of participating villages and local government officials, culminating in sharing key findings with key conservation stakeholders and decision-makers.
Jan 30, 2019
Meeting with Community Monitors to review data collection
Jan 31, 2019
Community Monitors update village members on data collection
Feb 05, 2019
May 31, 2019
Analysis of preliminary results
Jun 15, 2019
Training of Community Monitors on interpreting results and dissemination
Meet the Team
I am a Conservation Biologist who has worked in the Serengeti ecosystem for more than 15 years, both as a scientist and as a project leader. My areas of interest include understanding how decisions by local households influence wildlife populations, and how conservation programs can better engage communities to enhance success. I am particularly interested in steps communities are taking to address human-wildlife conflicts. I believe in the importance of understanding the perspectives of communities around the Serengeti when managing conservation programs, and I am interested in how we as scientists can better engage local people in conducting relevant research to inform decision-making.
Martin Andimile Mbila
Martin was born in the southern highlands of Tanzania, and developed an interest in conservation at a young age. He went on to become an ecologist, with a focus on studying the anthropogenic impacts on wildlife in Tanzania’s national parks. In particular, Martin has researched the role of bushmeat hunting on local livelihoods, and the impact on wildlife populations. He served as field officer for the Bushmeat-free Eastern African Network (BEAN), and went on to conduct his PhD research in Lwafi Game Reserve in Western Tanzania. More recently, Martin was the Research Scientist on a research project to determine the role of bushmeat in zoonotic disease transmission in Tanzania.
Martin is a skilled facilitator with extensive experience in community engagement and participatory research methods. Martin works closely with the Community Monitors on the data collection, and making sure that the key findings are communicated back to the village leaders, as well as conservation partners.
Examples of research questions identified by these communities include: “Can preventing crop-raiding by elephants improve household income and reduce engagement in bushmeat hunting and charcoal burning?” and “Does construction of a permanent livestock watering hole on village land reduce or increase human-wildlife interactions?”.
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