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Lupande Development Project

Completed initiative 1987


Tuskless bull elephant in South Luangwa, Zambia

Tuskless bull elephant in South Luangwa, Zambia (Photo "Old tuskless" by Stolen Art is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

In 1986, in response to high levels of poaching and increasing conflict between local communities and government officials, the Lupande Development Project was initiated. The experimental program tested the feasibility of allowing local communities to participate in managing wildlife resources through a partnership with the Zambian National Parks and Wildlife Service. The primary objective was to help financially support both community development and wildlife conservation through sustainable-yield uses of resources with the involvement of local villages. The project resulted in a dramatic reduction of poaching of elephants and rhinos, and revenue earned through carefully regulated trophy hunting, as well as other activities, was sufficient to meet costs. Communities benefitted financially from the program and as a result, gained a more positive attitude towards government officials and wildlife.



The Luangwa Valley in Zambia is home to an abundance of diverse wildlife. In the 1980s its four national parks accounted for approximately 20% of the Luangwa Valley catchment, and surrounding these parks were game management areas (GMA), which were more than three times as large as the parks themselves.

Located to the east of South Luangwa National Park was the Lupande GMA. Lupande was occupied at the time by six separate chiefdoms of the Kunda tribe with a total population of 20,000. The initiative was carried out principally in one chiefdom, Malama. Chief Malama’s area totaled approximately 400 km2 with about 700 people distributed in village settlements, where subsistence farming, as well as some cash farming, was practiced

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected African Elephant Loxodonta africana , Black Rhino Diceros bicornis

Products in trade

Ivory and rhino horn for international markets.

Overview of the problem

GMAs differed from parks as they were zoned for wildlife utilisation, mainly hunting but also human residency. Within the GMAs, wildlife remained the property of the state and licenses to hunt were prohibitively expensive for local communities. The denial of access to resources, in particular, wild sources of protein, led to negative sentiments among local residents toward government wildlife policies and contributed to significant levels of poaching that resulted in the drastic decline of elephants and black rhinos in the Luangwa Valley during the 1970s and early 1980s.

In response, the Zambian government intensified law enforcement by employing wildlife scouts. However, as these scouts were not members of the local community their presence was unwelcome and more than half of Malama’s chiefdom expressed negative attitudes towards the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). As a result, poachers entering the GMA from further afield were encouraged to hunt illegally as long as they shared some of the meat with local communities.

Socio-economic factors contributed to the negative attitudes since the most common means available to locals to profit from wildlife was poaching and with existing levels of income so low it made such practices a necessity for some individuals.

The anti-IWT initiative

In response to high poaching levels and increasing negative attitudes between local people and government officials, NPWS adopted an experimental design for managing wildlife that was tested in the lower half of the Lupande GMA. Called the Lupande Development Project, the design was based on the premise that a share of revenues from wildlife should be retained to support the management needs of the department for the area where the funds were generated. To achieve this, the Wildlife Conservation Revolving Fund (WCRF) was created as a financial institution in 1983. A second premise was that NPWS should be allowed to employ additional staff beyond a government-approved quota of civil servants.

Initially, the design called for a management approach in which:

1. Staffing requirements were sourced from local communities

2. Training and development was supervised by NPWS to ensure high standards

3. Wildlife management issues were dealt with in collaboration with village leaders via sub-committees in each chiefdom

4. An NPWS officer, known as a unit leader, was charged with the administration of the new GMA structure

5. Any revenue generated by the WCRF was retained to support wildlife management costs as well as provide benefits to the community

For the workforce, men from local villages, aged 20-35, were chosen for training by NPWS in skills including law enforcement, wildlife censusing, data collection and report writing. After 6 months of training, the recruits became designated village scouts and were officially employed by NPWS. Scouts remained in their respective chiefdom as local custodians of wildlife resources - supervised and monitored by the unit leader. Additional workers were also recruited from local communities on a seasonal basis to help with other management needs.

The management design also provided for crucial input from village leaders on existing wildlife programs as well as on planning of future ones. After one year, following initial talks with a local chief, a village wildlife committee, comprised of headmen, the chief, and NPWS officials was formed. The committee discussed wildlife issues and was chaired jointly by the chief and unit leader.

Of critical significance to the design of the project was the earning and handling wildlife revenues. Two main sources of revenue were identified – trophy hunting and sustained-yield harvesting of hippos. Hunting revenue was generated by public auctions to win the right to hunt in the area and was hosted by safari hunting companies. These would be managed and policed by NPWS and the local community, with 40% of the highest bid handed to local chiefs for community projects and the remaining 60% recycled back into the GMA to meet management costs. The net profit from the sustained-yield harvest of hippos and commercial marketing of their teeth, hides and meat was to be shared in the same proportions. The methods adopted in the harvesting program were labour intensive in order to maximise employment opportunities for local residents.

The overall design assumed that awareness and understanding of wildlife management by local communities would increase as benefits from revenues increased and village participation grew. The design encouraged local authorities to play a greater administrative role in wildlife management under the guidance and supervision of the unit leader. The idea was this might help to diversify the sources of revenue in the GMAs through the input of ideas and the participation of local residents.

The strategy

Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour

Paid in money community scouts
Paid in-kind community scouts
Further detail

Village scouts were given salaries, uniforms, ammunition, etc.

Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship

Trophy hunting
Subsistence resource access/use
Legal trade
Further detail

Five sources of revenue resulted from the project: safari hunting concession fees, safari hunting licenses, collection of ivory, fines from court convictions for illegal activities, and sales from hippo harvesting. Revenues were shared among entities with a political influence on wildlife conservation as well as with those communities participating in the program. A self-catering tourist enterprise was also initiated.

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

Provision of community-level benefits
Further detail

Building and camp improvement projects were undertaken in the GMA.

Has the initiative made a difference?

In December 1986, the first wildlife sub-committee for Chief Malama’s area was convened. The meeting ended with an audience convinced that the benefits from wildlife could be achieved through sustained yield management, and that the NPWS could promote these benefits to the local community. The relations between the two parties improved.

In March 1987, Chief Malama instructed his village not to cooperate with poachers and to report the presence of any poachers who entered his area. Chief Msoro, of a neighbouring village, also expressed a desire to have village scouts and later in 1987 personally arrested a local resident for poaching an elephant. In addition, the presence of poachers became locally known through the assistance of residents who volunteered the information, leading to the arrest of three groups of poachers. The reporting of such information had been a rare occurrence in previous years.

By August 1987, 26 scouts from local villages were recruited and trained and the total area under surveillance increased to approximately 400 km2. Village scouts appeared to have an advantage over non-resident civil servant scouts and contributed significantly to law enforcement, accounting for the increase in the number of arrests and firearms seized between 1985 and 1987. Consistent with this trend, annual mortality from the poaching of elephants and black rhinos decreased by at least tenfold between 1985 and 1987.

In addition, other important functions of wildlife management were carried out by village scouts under the supervision of unit leaders, such as filling out sheets to evaluate hunting efforts and recording information on wildlife numbers as well as improving public relations between NPWS and the local community. Other duties included controlled early burning and animal counts, and other skills developed included vehicle maintenance, typing and driving.  

In late 1987, a questionnaire survey showed a positive change in local attitudes toward wildlife resources as well as the improved perceptions of NPWS. A common reason for approval was the reduction of poaching in the area.

In terms of revenue, in 1987 wildlife revenue exceeded the annual operating budget by almost four times. More than half of this entered the Central Treasury but, through the revenue-sharing formula, a high amount was also provided for wildlife management costs. This meant significant shares of wildlife profits were generated for both the local community and central government, further increasing public and political support for the economic importance of wildlife.

What works and why

The leadership from NPWS unit leaders was essential in promoting public awareness of how the involvement of local residents in management could contribute to improved economic benefits to communities from wildlife. Furthermore, allowing the chief’s council to be present on the sub-committee showed respect to the traditional leadership authorities in the area, possibly enhancing the level of appreciation among residents of increased employment and benefits provided by the program.

Salary incentives for the village scouts were above expected income levels for the area and undoubtedly contributed to their relatively high motivation to work.

Public reaction in the local community to the village scouts was initially negative but became supportive once the revenue benefits from wildlife to the local community became apparent. One factor that in particular generated a greater appreciation of the role of village scouts and encouraged a more protective attitude for wildlife was informing local leaders that over 90% of poachers arrested by scouts lived outside the GMA.

The program revealed that wildlife conservation in areas outside of protected areas can be made more cost-effective by combining the efforts of NPWS officials with local communities. Improvements in conservation, such as reduced poaching, helped to sustain future revenues from wildlife for local community benefits and helped to meet management costs. The design also allowed market forces to dictate the overall earnings given the hunting concession was based on bids from safari companies. This ensured the private sector was not over-charged and placed a responsibility on local communities to maintain the market value to generate greater benefits.

The marginally positive revenue balance achieved in 1987 would have been more substantial had there been a stable hippo population. However, due to an anthrax outbreak, the utilisation scheme was canceled, highlighting the need for a multiple-use approach to wildlife resources and not to depend on a single source of income or species. However, this stimulated further ideas that resulted in a multi-species utilisation scheme as well as a self-catering tourist enterprise owned and operated by the local community, helping to diversify and maintain wildlife earnings.

Factors for success

Supportive national policy/legislation on sustainable use of natural resources

Supportive, multi-stakeholder partnerships with a shared vision

Devolved decision-making power so local communities have a voice in creating or co-creating solutions (as part of the initiative)

Effective and trusted community leaders

Transparent and accountable distribution of benefits to local communities

Organisers, donors and partners

Lupande Game Management Area

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