NEW YORK (EMBARGOED UNTIL: AUGUST 22, 2011, 3:00 PM U.S. EASTERN TIME) A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) documents the success of a Wildlife Conservation Society program that uses an innovative business model to improve rural livelihoods while restoring local wildlife populations.
Known as COMACO (Community Markets for Conservation), the program began in Zambia in 2003 and has resulted in wildlife populations stabilizing and rebounding in areas once ravaged by poaching. In addition, local people including some of the world's poorest farmers are now benefitting from higher crop yields and improved livelihoods.
The study appears in the August 23rd edition of PNAS. Authors include Dale Lewis, Mwangala Mukamba of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Makondo Kabila; Samuel Bell, Kim Bothi, Lydia Gatere, Carmen Moraru, Johannes Lehman, James, Lassoie, David Wolfe, David Lee, Louise Buck, and Alexander Travis of Cornell University; John Fay of the University of Cape Town; and Edwin Matokwaani and Matthews Mushimbalume of the Zambian Wildlife Authority.
The COMACO program teaches rural villagers including former poachers sustainable agriculture methods that improve crop yields while reducing deforestation. COMACO then helps them earn more by adding value to crops, such as selling peanut butter instead of peanuts. Importantly, the program provides access to national and international commodity and retail markets. COMACO links membership in the cooperative business with wildlife conservation by having new participants turn in their guns and snares and by monitoring of the sustainable practices.
"COMACO represents a pragmatic solution to several related problems that plague rural Africa: poverty, deforestation, and loss of wildlife," said the study's lead author and COMACO founder Dale Lewis of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "This study documents COMACO's initial successes and outlines some of the cha
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Wildlife Conservation Society