Peace Parks Foundation has been working with communities surrounding Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve in northern Malawi to build an 80- kilometre electrified fence that protects both humans and wild animals. Already, this fence has offered significant benefits helping to reduce human-wildlife conflict and creating employment opportunities within the area.
The Benefits Of Fencing
The building of the electrified fence, which can often carry negative connotations, has already had many positive effects on the local communities living within the buffer zone of Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve and Nyika National Park. Both protected areas fall within the Nyika-North Luangwa component of the important Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area.
Acting Project Manager for the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area, George Nxumayo explains that thanks to the new fence, animals like elephant are no longer able to raid crops, leaving farmers in peace during an already stressful harvest period. Further to this, nocturnal predators like hyena are no longer a threat to humans and livestock like goats, pigs and chickens.
The fence is also providing job opportunities for the local people here as there is a need for fence patrols and regular maintenance to be carried out. The fence is now owned and looked after by the local communities, with the park offering support when needed. This is leading to improved economic conditions in the area, which is beneficial for both people and wildlife as pressure on the natural environment is reduced.
With the local people having lived off this land for generations, the fence is there to protect them instead of becoming a permanent barrier between them and nature. To this end, villagers can still collect water from inside the park as well as natural resources like honey and thatch grass in the buffer zone between the fence and the reserve. The quantities of the latter two are controlled by an agreement between the park and the community, encouraging the sustainable harvesting of resources.
A Three-Way Initative
This fencing initiative demonstrates what can be achieved when communities, the Government and organisations like Peace Parks Foundation work together towards a shared common goal. Not only does it provide employment opportunities, safety and security but helps to create respect between the people and their natural environment.