Learning and action for community engagement against wildlife crime

To successfully tackle poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, we need to move beyond law enforcement and develop best practice in involving communities in managing wildlife resources and taking action against wildlife crime.

July 2018 - March 2022
Dilys Roe

Principal researcher and team leader (biodiversity), Natural Resources

Conservation, communities and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to understand and implement equitable conservation and enhance community voice in conservation policymaking
A man peers through the lens of a camera, while receiving advice from his colleague, another ranger

Rangers from the Conservancy Rhino Ranger Incentive Programme (Photo: copyright Save the Rhino Trust)

In March 2015 the Kasane conference on illegal wildlife trade (IWT) took place in Botswana. It made a recommendation to “Establish, facilitate and support information-sharing mechanisms… to develop knowledge, expertise and best practice in practical experience of involving local people in managing wildlife resources, and in action to tackle IWT”.

This project responds to that recommendation by establishing a learning and action platform for locally-driven initiatives to share lessons and inject community voices into IWT policymaking. It includes:

  1. An online information portal, called People not Poaching: the Communities and IWT Learning Platform
  2. On-the-ground dialogues, initially focused on Tanzania and Zambia.

Why now?

Responses to IWT in Africa have focused on increasingly militarised state-led law enforcement, with serious implications for indigenous peoples and local communities’ safety and wellbeing – in particular there have been several well publicised cases of human rights abuses.

It is also clear from the continuation of poaching that enforcement-based approaches alone are not enough. Too often, poorly targeted enforcement activities undermine local confidence in conservation authorities and discourage communities from cooperating and conserving or sustainably managing wildlife.

There are cases where poaching has been significantly reduced by empowering communities to manage and protect the wildlife that surrounds them. But such experiences are in danger of being overlooked in the rush to tackle IWT.

There is also a lack of knowledge about the different types of community-based approaches available, and the conditions under which they will and won’t work. And communities themselves are rarely consulted in IWT programme design processes, and lack the capacity and voice to engage in policy debate.

What is IIED doing?

The 'LeAP: Learning and Action Platform for Community Engagement Against IWT' project is funded by the UK government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and addresses these challenges with three sets of activities.

  1. Building evidence: Using the online People not Poaching portal, we will work with partners to create and share a strong body of evidence on the role of communities in tackling IWT. Using the IIED-IUCN Theory of Change for Engaging Communities in Tackling IWT as an analytical framework, we will generate and publish lessons on what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Strengthening voice and dialogue: In Tanzania and Zambia we will convene dialogues that bring together communities, government policymakers and IWT project funders and implementers in key IWT hotspots, and explore how to better support community-based efforts to tackle IWT. We will document and share widely the lessons learned in Tanzania and Zambia to encourage similar processes in other countries. The People not Poaching website has all the information from the Tanzania dialogue in December 2019 and the Zambia dialogue in March 2020.

    Building on the IIED and IUCN-SULI led Beyond Enforcement initiative, we will also take opportunities at the regional and international level to bring community voices into policy processes and debates.
  3. Facilitating South-South learning: Focused around the People not Poaching online platform and dialogues in Tanzania and Zambia, and building on the network of contacts generated through the Beyond Enforcement activities, we will foster a dynamic community of practice. We will also bring community representatives together to share experiences.

    The first of these events – ‘Community Voices’ – took place prior to the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in London in October 2018. (Watch a playlist of interviews from community representatives at the event below, or on IIED's YouTube channel)

In October 2019, a second Community Voices event took place in the run up to the First High-Level Conference of the Americas on Illegal Wildlife Trade (Spanish language). Participating communities developed a statement outlining their role in wildlife management (PDF), including tackling IWT.

In November 2019, an Eastern and Southern Africa learning exchange took place in Kenya to enable key stakeholders to develop policy messages and recommendations to guide future work on community-based approaches to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Another regional learning exchange is planned for 2020 in Namibia.

IIED is coordinating the project and international events, and is leading the development and maintenance of the People not Poaching portal with IUCN-SULi.

The Tanzania Natural Resources Forum and Zambia CBNRM Forum are leading on collecting experiences from communities in their countries and organising national dialogues. The Namibia Nature Foundation will convene the African exchange. All partners will input to regional and international policy dialogues.

Get involved

We want to learn from both community-driven initiatives, such as Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs), and externally driven ones, such as those where community members are employed as game guards.

If you are involved in developing and implementing community action against poaching, please share your own experiences on the People Not Poaching platform