Agricultural Research for development: Cirad’s work in Zimbabwe

Posted on April 17th, 2012 in Featured Conservation,General by Alta

We’re now into the third week of our drive to create a registry of Zimbabwean conservation projects.  As we pick up speed in the buildup to our visit to Harare, we’d like to share with you, in the next fortnight, some of the great work being done by conservation organisations and institutions in Zimbabwe.

The first of these featured organisations is the Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (Cirad). Cirad is a French research agency that has been conducting applied agricultural research for over twenty years in  Zimbabwe.  Since 2007, Cirad with three other institutions, namely University of Zimbabwe, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), and CNRS (another French-based research agency), have embarked on a research platform called “Production and Conservation in Partnership” (RP-PCP).

The objective of the platform is to address human-nature conflicts in the periphery of protected areas, including TFCAs.  Research themes addressed are community based natural resource management, agriculture and conservation, functional ecology and animal health and environment.  The RP-PCP with the support of the French Embassy in Zimbabwe and funds from research and development projects, promote post-graduate training (Msc, MPhil and PhD), mostly for Zimbabwean students and when possible for staff from technical services.  So far, the RP-PCP has supported 11 PhDs, 22 MPhil and 8 MSc (with 35% completed).

Land-use differences at the periphery of Protected Areas (photo: A. Caron)

Two examples of Cirad projects within the RP-PCP are their disease transmission projects at the wildlife/livestock interface in Gonarezhou National Park (Greater Limpopo TFCA) and Hwange National Park (Kavango-Zambezi TFCA) – both these projects can be seen on the MAPA conservation layer.

One thing these two parks have in common is that they are both located along international borders and within TFCAs wildlife/livestock interfaces are numerous in these TFCAs (sometimes with fences but often with no physical barrier between land-uses). One of the consequences of these interfaces is the transmission of important diseases (e.g. Foot-and-Mouth Disease, bovine tuberculosis, theileriosis) from wildlife to cattle and vice versa, threatening both conservation and development objectives.

Understanding and managing wildlife/livestock interaction and disease transmission on the periphery of these protected areas and TFCAs is thus particularly critical, and exactly what Cirad and its partners hopes to achieve by fitting GPS collars to both cattle and buffalos and surveying these ungulate populations for major diseases. This issue is important for wildlife conservation, livestock production (and therefore for rural livelihoods) but also for public health as some of these diseases such as zoonoses can be transmitted from animals to humans (e.g. brucellosis, rift valley fever).

Cattle in a dip-tank (left) and interviews with cattle farmers (right) (photos: A. Caron)

The sanitary aspect is only one of the aspects addressed through the RP-PCP. Human-Elephant conflicts, impact of tourism and hunting on the wildlife resource, perceptions of farmers on TFCAs and many other topics are tackled by research students (click here to see and download a leaflet).

Both disease transmission projects, as well as the Research platform have now been added to MAPA’s database and can be found on our Google Earth layer. To explore the great work Cirad does in Zimbabwe in Google Earth, download MAPA’s conservation layer for Google Earth, or visit their website.


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