Conservation Across Boundaries (CAB)

The Conservation Across Boundaries (CAB) programme encourages stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds and with different expertise to work together towards the common goal of a healthy and functional Matobo Hills ecosystem.

In many areas and countries around the world, human activity is increasingly encroaching into “wild” areas, often in marginal habitats, resulting in fragmentation of habitats and reduction in connectivity. This impacts dispersal ability and viability of wildlife populations. Furthermore, there is an increased dependence on natural resources, which may lead to over exploitation and degradation.

It is important to remember that nothing works in isolation, and protected areas are affected by activities in surrounding land-use types and vice versa. A further challenge in the current era is of climate change; specifically in terms of changes in rainfall patterns and quantities. The effects of climate change, especially in marginal habitats, may have substantial effects on sustainability.

With all of this in mind the team at Dambari Wildlife Trust have worked collaboratively to proactively prepare the Matobo Hills and the regions communities for these eventualities.  The concept of Conservation Across Boundaries is not a new one, it refers specifically to “building biological and social links and connectivity between and across differing land tenure and landuse regimes” This embraces the “no boundaries” concept and acknowledges the fact that adjacent land-use types affect each other. It is akin to the transfrontier conservation area approach of developing corridors for wildlife movement across large areas.

CAB encourages sustainable utilization and should be adaptive, allowing communities with different needs and resources to develop strategies suitable to their particular situations. The overall aim is to work towards a common goal, through participation with scientists/ conservationists and communities. Such an approach has been successful in Namibia where communities monitor their own natural resources and develop strategies in consultation with scientists.

Why The Matobo Hills?

The Matobo Hills support a rich biodiversity and form an important catchment for the Shashe-Limpopo river system (one of the two main catchments in Zimbabwe).

The vast majority of people living in the Hills are subsistence agro-pastoralists with a mean household monthly income of US$80, and a high proportion of households are woman or child headed, which often indicates high vulnerability and increased poverty (Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee Report).  High poverty levels and unsound environmental practices frequently go hand-in-hand; the Matobo area is therefore a priority location for long-term, community-driven biodiversity management.

All projects carried out by DWT are created with the aim to provide and locally-relevant solutions based on sound data to achieve the organisation’s mission

To promote the furtherance of biological knowledge, the conservation of biodiversity, and the sustainable use of natural resources, while integrating conservation across boundaries in selected landscapes in Zimbabwe and adjacent countries”.

In addition, the Matobo Hills is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition that the region has one of the highest concentrations of rock art in Southern Africa dating back at least 13,000 years. As a result, the region has to manage a delicate balance between the conservation of biodiversity with this cultural heritage, the Matobo National Park itself, private wildlife and tourism areas, commercial livestock farms and subsistence agro-pastoralist areas.

An example of one of the local collaborative projects can be seen in the linked presentation.

In 2012 we launched the Schools Biodiversity Monitoring Project, which is one pillar of the Conservation Across Boundaries programme. A June 2020 evaluation of the programme, published via the linked report, points to an increase in knowledge and a positive mindset change towards the conservation of natural resources among the trained pupils, including a greater understanding of environmental stewardship.

In turn, these students not only help to educate their communities about minimising human-wildlife conflict, but they go on to study conservation at tertiary level.