NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Africans Are Using Market Incentives To Conserve Wildlife

August 1, 1998

Poachers have almost wiped out rhinoceroses in East Africa in the past 15 years because government efforts to control poaching through command-and-control techniques used in America never worked very well in Africa, say experts. Doing what they could to feed their families, people resented and defied the laws.

Now African environmentalists have abandoned the American model and are using market-oriented initiatives to protect environmental values in Zambia, Tanzania and other countries. Take the Campfire program in Zimbabwe, for instance. Using market incentives, it has successfully involved natives in conserving wildlife.

  • Foreign hunters pay $10,000 to hunt and shoot an elephant, $3,500 to shoot a lion, $2,000 for a buffalo and $300 for an impala.
  • The money goes into a pot that is divided among the people in the community and district.
  • Seeing the surrounding wildlife as a valuable resource, the natives go out of their way to protect the animals -- rather than slaughtering them wantonly.

In northern Malawi, local people are now allowed to harvest thatch grass to build houses in the Vwasa Marsh preserve -- where formerly they were forbidden to forage.

Experts say the world environmental movement is at a crossroads. One of America's most distinguished environmental historians, William Cronon of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, set off a firestorm in the environmental movement with a recent article called "The Trouble with Wilderness." He says there is a tendency toward dualism among environmentalists -- painting civilization as evil and nature as good. The logical conclusion of such thinking is that "the only way to save nature is to kill ourselves."

The alternative, say observers, is to make some of the compromises that are being used successfully in Africa.

Source: Robert H. Nelson (Competitive Enterprise Institute), "Calvinism Minus God," Forbes, October 5, 1998.


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