The role of environmental education in enhancing community participation in wildlife management in Zambia

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Chola, Gibson Bwalya
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This study aimed at investigating the extent to which Environment Education targeted at local communities implementing wildlife Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) in South Luangwa National Park had contributed to enhancing local communities" knowledge and understanding of environmental, social and biodiversity issues to help achieve local, national and international development and conservation objectives. A randomly selected sample of 240 respondents comprising 120 Ordinary} and 120 Executive committee members from six Community Resource Boards (CRBs) participated in the study. The sample size was further broken into twenty ordinary and twenty executive committee respondents from each of the six CRBs. Two objective questionnaires were used to measure and assess community environmental and biodiversity knowledge and awareness. In addition, random interviews and focus group discussions with the sample population were used to consult institutional and community stakeholders. Results from the study show that a local community’s entire environmental and biodiversity knowledge, skills and conservation awareness was only confined to wildlife, The study found that knowledge on wildlife value and conservation was generally good and there was no significant difference in performance between Ordinary CRB and Executive Committee members. This result clearly shows that the entire local community’s environmental and biodiversity knowledge and awareness was narrowly focused on wildlife and paid little attention to broader conservation perspectives.Furthermore, the study established that the local community's knowledge and awareness of broader environmental, social and bio-diversity issues had necessarily been limited by the format under which CBNRM had been managed in Zambia and by the differential attention given to wildlife conservation policy to suit ZAWA and Slate objectives. Arising from these findings, the study concludes that generally, the majority of local communities which took part in wildlife-based natural resource management lacked the necessary knowledge and skills of social, environmental and biodiversity issues and policies to enable them adopt environmental friendly behaviour and thereby help increase their capacity to participate in meaningful conservation and achieve sustainable development. What this means is that the CBNRM approaches in practice at the time of this study (2006) did not facilitate learning and change. As this study has shown, key actors (in this case practitioners like Government and ZAWA) generally resisted modifying existing attitudes and behaviours and. instead, sought to control information, usually by resorting to highly constrained discourses and problem definitions that only served the prevailing political system. Interviews with focus groups established that the main cause for this resistance was "denial." which was found to be symptomatic of ZAWA personnel. By "denial" I refer to a situation where ZAWA personnel strongly rejected criticism for any operational errors or flaws for fear that any admission would bring into question the credibility of the entire administrative complex. This study has also concluded that fear and denial combined with the economic and political ramifications of the new C'BNRM politic had resulted into a process characterized by scientific exclusion and a tendency by practitioners and policy Makers lo ignore local knowledge and contextual experience when formulating conservation and development policies that affect the poor. The study found that this tendency was the basis of ZAWAs sectoral (top Down) approach to community mobilisation at the time of conducting this study in 2006. This result may also help explain the absence of broader social, environmental and biodiversity knowledge and skills among the participating communities. What this result means is that ZAWA needs to take into account local peoples" venerable experiences when formulating or implementing policies that directly impact on the poor. For example, poor people’s perception of poverty must be taken into account during the development and formulation of any anti-poverty policies and programmes. What this study however found is that most of ZAWA's CBNRM policies were introduced centrally; as a response to internal or external political pressure, but not in response lo specific local natural resource management initiatives or experiences. From the results of this study, it is recommended that in order to overcome obstacles to the mobilisation of multiple perspectives in environmental and biodiversity conservation. ZAWA should employ a broadened mobilisation approach called "environmental education" if the format of environmental and biodiversity skills, knowledge and attitudes for both practitioners and participants have lo improve.
Wildlife conservation