Home > Projects > Mambanje Mobile Cattle Boma Initiative

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Donations can be made in US-Dollars via international bank transfer to:

  • Account Number: 33-115903
  • Account Name: Uthando Africa
  • Swift Code: KFISZWHA
  • Branch Code: 12324 (Bulawayo)
  • Bank:Kingdom Bank, 53 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Intermediary Bank: Standard Chartered Bank, 1 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10010-3603 USA
  • Intermediary Swift Code: SCBLUS33

Cheque Payment

Wire Transfers

Donations can be made in US-Dollars via international bank transfer to:

  • Account Number: 33-115903
  • Account Name: Uthando Africa
  • Swift Code: KFISZWHA
  • Branch Code: 12324 (Bulawayo)
  • Bank:Kingdom Bank, 53 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Intermediary Bank: Standard Chartered Bank, 1 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10010-3603 USA
  • Intermediary Swift Code: SCBLUS33

African Bush Camps Foundation have partnered over the years with Elefence International and we have received their tremendous support in Conversation and Community Infrastructure in and around Hwange National Park, from funding Solar Powered water pumps at desperate waterholes in Hwange National Park for the wildlife, to fixing Borehole Pumps in remote villages like Mambanje giving the people a reliable water source, and filling hungry tummies of young children who attend Mambanje Primary School.

 

Video: A brief look at the Mobile Cattle Boma initiative

The Lion Guardian & Boma Project: Conservation with the African Bush Camps Foundation
from African Bush Camps Vimeo Channel.

Today far more African lions are lost to conflict with humans and their livestock than from any other cause of mortality. Together with Elefence International we have now also partnered with the Wildcru Hwange Lion Research Project, supported by the SATIB Trust and which has been running for 15 years, and is aimed at understanding, managing and conserving the lion population of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. As part of this valuable research, the Hwange Lion Research Project focuses on reducing human-animal conflict, which poses a significant risk to the survival of all carnivores in the wild, through a detailed understanding of the ecological and social factors that influence conflict. In the Hwange area, this conflict arises from lion predation on the livestock of rural communities who frequently retaliate by killing the lion as the people are subsistence farmers and the cattle are a vital part of their being able to support their families.

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Lion conflict cases around Hwange National Park (HNP) in Zimbabwe have declined by a half to three-quarters of their previous levels since the relatively recent introduction of the ‘Longshields Lion Guardian Programme’ in 2012. Long Shields Lion Guardians are local people who form a link between conservationists and their communities, providing information and encouraging cooperation – is an important initiative which has proved very successful. Far fewer livestock lost and far fewer lions killed amounts to a win-win scenario for lions, researchers, wildlife authorities and local people, through a shared sense of ‘ownership’ of both the problem and its solution.

After more than a decade of Hwange Lion Research’s work, their research revealed that only a few lions out of the Hwange National Park population kill livestock.  And because Hwange lion researchers have been studying the lion conflict scenario for so long, they can largely predict which individuals might leave the park to engage in stock-raiding and even when this might occur.  These lions (often the ‘nomad’ sub-adult males but occasionally females) have been radio-collared and their timed location fixes sent via satellite to an internet reception point, almost in real time.  The researcher can then alert the project’s Lion Guardian who is resident in the nearest village, using a mobile phone.  The guardian thus warns villagers to avoid grazing their livestock near the lion.  And if a lion is lurking near a village, the guardian assembles a large gang of village men who, accompanied by dogs (or sound recordings of barking dogs) and armed with Vuvuzelas (strident horns used at African football matches), set off en masse to the exact location of the hiding lion.  A noisy, motivated and determined force of such magnitude is more than a match for a relatively inexperienced lion, who takes off without hesitation – empty-handed.  Repeating this near the next village soon teaches the lion that his new way of life is going to be a difficult one, thus encouraging his retreat to safer territory.

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Thus not only is livestock far better protected but also the lion is spared.  Previously it would have been killed by local people or baited and shot by safari hunters or the wildlife authorities, often just for being in proximity to people.  In time, if communities are not being impacted by lions, they realise the greater value of live lions (most of whom now have names given by HLR) which indirectly provide them with vital employment opportunities via the park’s tourism industry.

 

African Bush Camps Foundation provides funding for one Lion Guardian – in Mambanje village on the boundary of Hwange National Park.

 

Lions, especially those killing livestock, preferentially hunt at night. The housing of livestock in bomas overnight is a critical factor that is highly effective in reducing lion predation.

This recent innovation replaces traditional bomas with boma ‘walls’ made from opaque white plastic sheeting (PVC) which is supported by poles and strung on ropes or cables like a curtain.  This exploits a technique used in the live capture of game animals – the fact that many wild species are intimidated by the ruse of a flimsy opaque barrier – and being naive to it, therefore will not challenge it.  And so far no lion has yet breached these bomas around Hwange to kill cattle, donkeys or goats.  An added bonus is both the reduced environmental cost of cutting the indigenous timber for traditional bomas and another innovation – the siting of these bomas on fallow crop fields where livestock collected together from a number of households can deposit soil-nourishing manure and trample it into the soil.  Moving these bomas around to different peoples’ crop fields gives each a turn to be naturally fertilized.

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The square boma covers 625m2 and is erected for about a week on a fallow crop field, before moving to another similar site in the village area.  So to evaluate the subsequent crops, ‘treated sites’ are those which the boma previously encompassed; untreated sites are immediately adjacent outside.  Treated sites benefit from manure and urine of kraaled livestock as well as churning of the top soil by animals’ hooves.  Crops subsequently grown on mobile boma sites show obvious improvements.

The first Boma in Mambanje was put up on 4 March 2016 and has a total number of 101 adult cattle and 25 younger calves, it has been rotated around three homesteads so far and this has been the one that has led to a rise in the number of villagers who have since joined the Mobile Boma initiative. Upon putting up this boma, there were several challenges faced where most of the community members still had some crops in their fields and therefore the boma could not be moved as frequently as necessary. This changed when villagers finished up their harvesting and had also begun to see the benefits of the boma in the first field where it had been erected. The villagers had begun to notice the change between areas in the field where the boma was situated and other areas in the entire field. In areas where the boma was, there was now a lot of manure and the ground had been cleared and loosened up by the cattle hooves and activity. The activity also helped to ensure that the cow dung was mixing well with the soil with the cows continuously breaking it down. Having manure on the fields will reduce the use of fertilizers around the community and the soil will not be weakened but made more fertile than ever before.

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The subsequent growth of maize plants on a boma site (right of image) compared to an adjacent area (left of image) that did not benefit from boma treatment

 

The second Mobile Cattle Boma at Mambanje was mounted on the 28th of April 2016 and it holds approximately 89 adult cattle and 19 younger calves. The second boma was put up after the success of the first boma which saw the number of cattle rising very quickly. The rapid rise made the second boma necessary as well as the fact that it had become logistically easier for villagers if they had another boma such that herders and cattle did not have to move long distances to the one boma. The Mobile Boma initiative has managed to keep the livestock around the village safe at night and the villagers are beginning to slowly realize that there are ways in which they can protect their livestock and not continuously be victims. The community is realizing that it is possible to live in harmony with the wildlife and this is also evidenced by the fact that villagers are willing to let go of past tensions but focus on the development of the community. The community has willingly accepted the Lion Guardian initiative where in previous years they have rejected it and chased away any Lion guardians sent to them. The Mobile Cattle Boma and the Lion Guardian work in a complementary way where the Guardian informs the villagers where to take the cattle for grazing and avoid grazing lands were lions are roaming.

Since then a 3rd and then on the 11th July 2017 the 4th Cattle Boma was installed to serve the area and ensure that no household that is part of the program has to walk more than a kilometer to their nearest boma. It meant that the project grew to incorporate nearly 40 households with an approximate total of 380cattle. The bomas have been a hit with more neighboring villages requesting for them to help protect their cattle, fertilize their farming land, and inspire them to think about holistic land management.

The program has largely been a success so far but however still faces other challenges which include:

 

  1. 1. Cattle in the community are suffering from different kinds of diseases and some members of the community are scared that their cattle will be infected.
  2. Damages to the boma material often occur from cattle rubbing up against the sheeting and wooden poles. Repairs often are needed and villagers are requesting thread and other materials to assist in the repairs.

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African Bush Camps Foundation is now seeking funds to enhance the Lion Guardian programme with an additional component involving Veterinary Care for livestock.

 

Veterinary care provided by the state in communal areas of Zimbabwe has seriously diminished due to the protracted economic problems in the country, so people have very little access to maintaining or ever improving the health of their livestock.  But another innovation can be introduced to the Hwange Lion Research lion guardian programme to further reinforce the beneficial link between conservation of wild carnivores and protection of domestic livestock.  This is the delivery of basic veterinary care to domestic animals belonging to those households who elect to keep their cattle in the new-design bomas.  Some owners are worried that communal herding of cattle overnight in these bomas, poses a health risk.  So far, however, there is little hard evidence for this.

 

Our Future plans to take this work from strength to strength are;

 

  1. Source further funding to go towards the livestock health program
  2. Erecting more bomas for Mambanje and surrounding villages
  3. Employing additional Lion Guardians to assist the current guardian